On the Loyola Chicago bench, they spilled onto the court in jubilation. On the Miami bench, they covered their faces with their hands in disbelief.
That was the scene senior forward Donte Ingram created with the first unforgettable shot of this year’s NCAA tournament.
With Loyola down one and only a few seconds left in regulation, guard Marques Townes sped up court, drew a crowd of Miami defenders and fed the ball to Ingram 35 feet from the basket. In desperation, Ingram rose up with his feet planted on the edge of the mid-court logo and buried a last-second 3-pointer, giving 11th-seeded Loyola a 64-62 upset victory and securing a second-round date with third-seeded Tennessee.
“This is what you grow up seeing, hoping that you can be in that moment,” Ingram told reporters in Dallas. “For me to be in this position with these guys, with this coaching staff, I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I’m just obviously blessed to hit that shot.”
An NCAA tournament victory over an ACC program is the maraschino cherry on top of what has already been a remarkable season for Loyola. The Ramblers (29-5) won at Florida in December, swept the regular season and tournament titles in the Valley and earned their first NCAA tournament bid in 33 seasons.
While Miami had a massive advantage in size and athleticism against a Loyola team with only one rotation player taller than 6-6, the Ramblers countered that with their precision and execution. They take care of the ball. They don’t foul. They pride themselves on defense. And they’re lethal from behind the arc.
For most of Thursday’s game, that was enough to keep Loyola competitive but it was not enough to get them over the hump. The Ramblers trailed by anywhere from two to seven points for the entire second half as Walker, Dewan Huell or Jaquan Newton always seemed to find a way to score a basket in the lane to keep them at arm’s length.
It took a brilliant call from coach Porter Moser for Loyola to finally forge its first tie. He dialed up a hammer play to get top scorer Clayton Custer a wide-open corner 3-pointer to forge a 60-60 tie with just over a minute to play.
“We try to be the best team at executing down the stretch,” Custer told reporters in Dallas. “And I mean, we’ve worked on that action a hundred times. We felt comfortable running it, and we executed it perfectly.”
Newton answered for Miami, creating for himself off the dribble and sinking a baseline jumper. That was the last points the the Hurricanes scored though as Lucas Williamson stripped Walker to create a turnover on Miami’s second-to-last possession and Walker missed the front end of a one-and-one on the next one.
That paved the way for Ingram, a 40 percent 3-point shooter and Loyola’s second-leading scorer this season.
He did not hesitate. And he did not miss.
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