"This is wonderful. Go Loyola!" said Zoey Doane, student. "I'm proud of these guys".
Not even Sister Jean, who keeps scouting reports on the Ramblers' opponents, expected them to go this far.
Loyola is being cheered on in the regional semifinals by four members of its 1963 national championship team. It seemed like they might be vulnerable against the TAMU team that had just dominated North Carolina, but instead the Wolverines shot the lights out and the game way over by halftime. They were rewarded with an inspiring effort that extended Loyola's March run as America's team, with its adorable team chaplain and indefatigable coach.
"My shot went in early and it gives you the confidence to take the next one", Abdur-Rahkman said.
MI got very hot late in the season, winning the Big Ten Tournament, and pulled off one of the most dramatic wins of March so far with a buzzer beater against Houston. Again against Nevada, nobody in maroon and gold exhaled until the closing seconds after the Wolf Pack rallied like Moser knew they would.
"I think we were all too quiet to start the game", Loyola guard Clayton Custer said after the 11-seed Ramblers topped the Wolfpack 69-68 in Atlanta.
Loyola continued its improbable run when Marques Townes sank a 3-pointer from in front of the Ramblers' bench, extending the team's lead to four points with just seconds left to play. Even if your heart was initially the only ally, your eyes would have been won over by now, following wins over Miami and Tennessee and Nevada. It was Townes' time.
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Townes charged down the court, pumping his fist, following the shot.
In the second half, the Wolf Pack doubled down on a smothering defense that forced Loyola into three shot-clock violations and another half-dozen hurried, off-balance attempts. In the Sweet 16 against Nevada, the Ramblers connected on a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left to seal the win.
Nevada's experience in second-half comebacks paid off.
After the half, Loyola literally couldn't miss. Caleb Martin led Nevada's team in scoring with 21 points, while shooting 44.4% from the field (making 8 of 18 attempts). Twin brother Cody Martin had 16. There were a dozen ties in the set before Loyola was able to pull away and close it out, 25-21, with a 3-0 run. "I'm so thankful to be in this scenario right now", Custer said in a postgame interview on CBS.
A few minutes later, Moser removed his jacket, Loyola dug in defensively and, suddenly, Nevada's passing lanes became more clogged. The Ramblers closed the half with a 20-4 run, holding the Wolf Pack scoreless for the final 7:55 before the break. Call it just being into the game I guess.
Pretty much everybody's NCAA Tournament is busted.
While some would be irritated by the constant interview requests and cameras, Sister Jean has taken it all in stride - and with some humor to boot. Players hugged and smiled and shook their heads. "This is such a wonderful thing to watch".