Thursday night’s first South regional semifinal promised to be entertaining, and the game certainly delivered. Loyola-Chicago and Nevada were fairly evenly matched, both from a point spread (the game tipped off with Nevada favored by just one) to the analytics (KenPom and 538, among others, forecasted a very tight game.)
That’s how it played out, as well, with Nevada opening up 20-8 lead with 13:36 remaining in the first half.
Loyola closed the half as strong as they could have hoped for, though, finishing on a 20-4 run to take a 28-24 lead into the break.
After the half, Loyola literally couldn’t miss. They made their first 13 shots of the second half, a stretch that covered the first ten minutes of the period, and only missed when they had to heave up a lengthy shot at the end of the shot clock. And yet Nevada was within ten at that point, and quickly cut into the lead further. The game was tied at 59 at the under-4 timeout, and things got crazier from there.
Down the stretch, Loyola executed flawlessly, while Nevada was carried by the Martin twins making ridiculous shots. There might not have been a more representative stretch than this sequence, from when Loyola was up 62-60:
That’s a beautiful layup after running clock, followed by Caleb Martin contested three on the other end. There was no bigger shot, though, than this one from Marques Townes:
That effectively ended it, even though Caleb Martin hit yet another tough three. But with less than two seconds remaining and a foul still to give, that effectively ended things, and this was the scene after.
What a game. Hopefully the Ramblers can keep their run going against the winner of Kentucky and Kansas State when they meet in the Elite 8 on Saturday. It’s hard to bet against them at this point.