INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — If the pregame prayer sounded more like a scouting report, it was. And if Sister Jean didn’t 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.
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.
Loyola Chicago will next play either Oklahoma State or Oregon State, who were set to meet later Sunday.
“We just executed, played our game and controlled the game from the start,” Krutwig said. “Nobody was really doing anything out of body or out of mind. We just stuck to the game plan.”
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 — sitting in her wheelchair and decked out in her trademark maroon and gold scarf — Jean delivered a pregame prayer that could’ve been stripped straight from a John Wooden handbook.
“As we play the Fighting Illini, we ask for special help to overcome this team and get a great win,” she said. “We hope to score early and make our opponents nervous. We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50% of layups and 30% of its 3 points. Our defense can take care of that.”
From her mouth to their ears.
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.
Illinois’ 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.
Syracuse 75, West Virginia 72
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Buddy Boeheim carried his father, Jim, to the Hall of Fame coach’s 20th Sweet 16 appearance, scoring 22 of his 25 points after halftime to lead 11th-seeded Syracuse past third-seeded West Virginia 75-72 in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
Jim Boeheim’s Orange got the better of another legend, Bob Huggins, in the second March Madness meeting between coaches with at least 900 Division I victories. Huggins won No. 900 when West Virginia beat Morehead State in the first round on Friday. Boeheim got his 982nd at Huggins’ expense.
Syracuse (18-9) advanced to face second-seeded Houston or 10th-seeded Rutgers in a Midwest Regional semifinal.
Buddy “Buckets” Boeheim erupted in the second half, when he made all but one of his six 3-pointers. He finished 6 of 13 from deep and 8 of 17 overall, and he helped put the game away with three late free throws.
While deep tournament runs are nothing new for his dad, it’s the first for Buddy, who was a freshman role player when the Orange lost in the opening round two years ago. Now he’s the Orange’s leading scorer and one of college basketball’s most dangerous shooters. He made two straight 3s just after the break, and his jumper and 3 on consecutive possessions put Syracuse ahead 63-59 with 4:55 left.
Sean McNeil scored 23 points to lead the Mountaineers (19-10), who last made the Sweet 16 in 2018. That was the fifth time West Virginia got that far under Huggins, who also made the regional semis four times with Cincinnati.
WVU trailed 74-72 with 4 seconds left before Boeheim was fouled at midcourt on an inbounds pass. He made one free throw and missed the second, but Miles McBride traveled after grabbing the rebound.
Joe Girard III scored all 12 of his points before halftime, steadying the Orange while Boeheim struggled. Quincy Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj also scored 12 each for Syracuse.