INDIANAPOLIS (CBS/AP) â If the pregame prayer sounded more like a scouting report, it was. And if Sister Jean didnât have any plans for next weekend, well, she does now.
Loyola Chicago carried out its 101-year-old superfan’s plans to a T on Sunday, moving to the Sweet 16 with a 71-58 win over Illinois, the first No. 1 seed bounced from this year’s NCAA Tournament.READ MORE: Jensen Elementary Mother Dies From COVID-19 After Daughter Exposed At School
Cameron Krutwig delivered a 19-point, 12-rebound masterpiece and the quick-handed, eighth-seeded Ramblers (26-4) led wire to wire. They befuddled a powerful Illinois offense to return to the second weekend three years after their last magical run to the Final Four.
A hard habit to break for these Ramblers. And a classic case of nun-and-done for the Illini.
âWe didnât even know if there would be a season,â Krutwig said after the game. â(The 2018) Final Four run holds special place in my heart, but this one feels sweeter in the moment because I am here in the present right now.â
Krutwig added: âYou want to be the best, youâve got to beat the best, and you know, theyâre a really, really good team, and we came out, and we just executed and played out game and kind of controlled our game from the start. We came into this tournament, you know, ranked like 17th in the country in the AP poll â you know?â Krutwig said. âWe got an eighth seed. Thatâs just the hand we were dealt. And you know, we feel like one of the best teams in the country, and I think we showed that.â
Loyola Coach Porter Moser looked at the big picture as he celebrated the victory.
âI was told when I was hired âItâs a pro town,ââ he said. âNo. I am from here. Itâs a sports town. To see Chicago get behind our team, embrace us for years now. You want to be relevant.â
Loyola will next play Oregon State. Tipoff is Saturday at 1:40 p.m., and the game is on CBS 2.
âWe just executed, played our game and controlled the game from the start,â Krutwig said. âNobody was really doing anything out of body or out of mind. We just stuck to the game plan.â
Who wrote it?
Some of Loyola’s wisdom comes from Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the venerable team chaplain, who headlined the team’s 2018 run to the Final Four and received both COVID-19 vaccination shots so she could travel to Indianapolis to see what inspiration she could provide in 2021.
Before taking in this game from the luxury suite â sitting in her wheelchair and decked out in her trademark maroon and gold scarf â Jean delivered a pregame prayer that couldâve been stripped straight from a John Wooden handbook.
âAs we play the Fighting Illini, we ask for special help to overcome this team and get a great win,â she said. âWe hope to score early and make our opponents nervous. We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50 percent of layups and 30% of its 3 points. Our defense can take care of that.â
From her mouth to their ears.READ MORE: Woman Struck And Killed When Car Jumps Curb, Hits Building In Gresham
Illinois (24-7) earned top seeding for the first time since its own Final Four run in 2005, but fell behind by 14 in the first half and never got within striking range. The Illini committed 16 turnovers and scored 23 points fewer than their season average. A team that lives for easy buckets in transition got two fast-break points.
Illinoisâ 7-foot second-team All-American Kofi Cockburn finished with 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting, but worked hard for every shot against the pestering presence of Krutwig and Co.
Loyola’s handsy guards, Lucas Williamson (14 points) and Keith Clemons (two steals), kept first-team All-American Ayo Dosunmu from ever finding his comfort zone. He finished with nine points, 11 under his season average. Illini guard Trent Frazier went 1 for 10 for two points.
Loyola held its lead in the 8-to-12-point range through most of the second half, and though Illinois made a few 4-0 flurries, it never made this a one-possession game.
âWe tried everything in the bag,â Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. âEverything thatâs made us one of the most efficient offensive teams, today, just for whatever reason, didnât work.â
âI donât think I played nowhere near how I wanted to play to help my team win. You know, I told my team, keep your heads high. We wanted to win this game, and we didnât get it done. But at the end of the day, youâve got to take your medicine,â Dosunmu said. âThatâs what Iâm doing now â taking my medicine.â
Krutwig is also an All-American â a third-teamer who looked all-world in this one.
Posting up, pivoting, dishing when necessary and causing all kinds of trouble on defense in the paint, the 6-9 senior played bigger. He also had five assists and four steals. Krutwig was with Loyola for the last Final Four trip, and has since become one of only four players in Missouri Valley Conference history to record 1,500 points, 800 boards, and 300 assists.
And thereâs a chance for more.
Itâs a turn of events that Sister Jean could see happening. Before the game, she suggested Loyola, the MVC champs who have the nation’s best defense (55.7 points per game) and were ranked 17th in the final AP poll, might have gotten a raw deal with a No. 8 seeding that put it up against a 1 so early.
There was only one way to deal with that â by winning. To anyone outside of Champaign â or now holding a freshly obliterated bracket â itâs hard to argue this Loyola team isnât the breath of fresh air this tournament-in-a-bubble sorely needed.
Sure, there have been upsets, some drama and little teams doing big things.
But thereâs nobody quite like Sister Jean to put the whole thing in perspective. The Ramblers and March Madness â what an inspiration!
âItâs amazing what happens when you get a group of young men who believe,” Moser said. “And these guys believed.âMORE NEWS: Cook County Gives $200,000 Grant To Social Service Agency Lawrence Hall
(Â© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)