Loyola Chicago holds off furious Nevada comeback, wins 69-68 to advance to Elite Eight

ATLANTA — Loyola Chicago trailed Nevada by 12 points, and Loyola Chicago led Nevada by 12 points. And by the time the first game of the NCAA tournament’s second weekend finished up, Loyola had eked out a 69-68 win that wasn’t all that pretty but did the job just fine.

With both fan bases standing at the end of the game, Loyola’s Clayton Custer dribbled out the majority of the clock, drove the lane, then found Marques Townes in the right corner. Townes’ 10th shot of the night found the bottom of the net, putting Loyola up four points with six seconds remaining.

Cody Martin followed with an immediate 3-point basket, but with 1.4 seconds remaining, the Ramblers ran out the clock and advanced to Saturday night.

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Loyola Chicago beats Nevada to advance to Elite Eight
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Loyola Chicago beats Nevada to advance to Elite Eight
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers forward Aundre Jackson (24) gets tied up with Nevada Wolf Pack guard Jordan Caroline (24) during the first half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt looks on prior to the game against the Nevada Wolf Pack in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack forward Cody Martin (11) drives against Loyola Ramblers guard Marques Townes (5) during the first half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers guard Marques Townes (5) reacts after a three-point basket against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the first half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers center Cameron Krutwig (25) drives against Loyola Ramblers forward Aundre Jackson (24) during the first half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers forward Aundre Jackson (24) drives to the basket against Nevada Wolf Pack guard Jordan Caroline (24) during the first half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack forward Caleb Martin (10) shoots against Loyola Ramblers guard Clayton Custer (13) during the first half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers guard Ben Richardson (14) drives against Nevada Wolf Pack guard Kendall Stephens (21) during the second half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack forward Caleb Martin (10) controls the ball against the Loyola Ramblers during the second half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack guard Jordan Caroline (24) shoots against Loyola Ramblers guard Lucas Williamson (1) during the second half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers guard Marques Townes (5) makes a three-point shot against Nevada Wolf Pack forward Caleb Martin (10) during the second half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers guard Marques Townes (5) reacts with guard Ben Richardson (14) after making a three-point shot during the second half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; The Loyola Ramblers celebrate after defeating the Nevada Wolf Pack in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers guard Marques Townes (5) makes a three point shot against Nevada Wolf Pack forward Caleb Martin (10) during the second half in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers guard Marques Townes (5) celebrates after defeating the Nevada Wolf Pack in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Loyola Ramblers forward Aundre Jackson (24) hugs Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt after defeating the Nevada Wolf Pack in the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Nevada night started out in a decidedly different manner. The Wolf Pack’s first three possessions resulted in layups, and for a few minutes, at least, it appeared this would be a Nevada rout. It rode an 8-0 run and nine early points by Jordan Caroline to go up by 12 points barely six minutes into the game. And then Nevada went colder than an airport slot machine, scoring exactly four points over the final 13:35 of the first half, the low point coming on a Cody Martin airball with just over a minute remaining.

Loyola, meanwhile, took advantage of Nevada’s iciness, posting a 20-4 run to close the half. The Ramblers took the lead on a pair of Marques Townes free throws with just over two minutes left in the half. Townes followed that up with a shot clock-beating 3-pointer – one of the few that actually dropped for either team – to put Loyola up 28-24.

Four of Nevada’s five starters are 6-foot-7 – guard Hallice Cook is four inches shorter – and the Wolf Pack takes pride in its position-less offense. But on Thursday night, at least in the first half, position-less drifted into directionless as no player was able to reliably shoot or even pass the ball early.

Loyola, meanwhile, effectively countered big with little, sitting center Cameron Krutwig for much of the game and working a speedy, small-ball lineup that Nevada’s bigs couldn’t handle.

Cody Martin began the second half the easiest way possible: A gentle off-the-glass layup. Barely a minute later, he scooped a would-be alley-oop out of the air. But he couldn’t hold off the Ramblers alone, and within about two minutes, Loyola’s four-point lead had grown to double digits.

But then the threes started falling for Nevada, and the Wolf Pack – with roughly 15 minutes left in their season – started playing with a touch of urgency. The only problem for Nevada: Loyola opened the second half with nearly 11 minutes of literal perfection, hitting every one of its first 13 shots. Tough to close a gap when your opponent is making every shot.

Another problem for Nevada: In addition to draining virtually every shot inside the half-court line, Loyola was devouring clock like a freshman housing free pizza; the shot clock forced the Ramblers into last-second or late shots three separate times.

Of course, Nevada had come back from 22 down to Cincinnati, so by that measure, a 12-point deficit wasn’t insurmountable. Once the Ramblers finally cooled down, and once Nevada finally remembered to start rotating on defense and going to the rim on smaller defenders, the Wolf Pack tied the game on a Cody Martin lay-in with just over four minutes remaining.

And then it was Loyola’s turn to deal with the nerves, the Rambler fans in Philips Arena’s Section 105 clutching at their Harry Potter-esque scarves. Aundre Jackson gave the Ramblers a touch of breathing room with a 3-point basket with just over three minutes remaining. But neither team could get out to more than a one-possession lead in the game’s waning moments

With both fan bases standing, Townes hit what turned out to be the game-sealing shot in the right corner and the Ramblers ran out the clock and advanced to Saturday night.

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The academic ranking of 2018 March Madness teams
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The academic ranking of 2018 March Madness teams

Penn

NCAA ranking: 64

U.S. News & World Report: #8 National University

(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

Duke

NCAA ranking: 6

U.S. News & World Report: #9 National University

(Photo by Michael Berg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

UCLA

NCAA ranking: 41

U.S. News & World Report: #21 National University (tie)

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Virginia

NCAA ranking: 1

U.S. News & World Report: #25 National University

(Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Michigan

NCAA ranking: 11

U.S. News & World Report: #28 National University

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

North Carolina

NCAA ranking: 5

U.S. News & World Report: #30 National University (tie)

(Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Florida

NCAA ranking: 21

U.S. News & World Report: #42 National University (tie)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Miami (FL)

NCAA ranking: 22

U.S. News & World Report: #46 National University (tie)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Villanova

NCAA ranking: 2

U.S. News & World Report: #46 National University (tie)

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Ohio State

NCAA ranking: 20

U.S. News & World Report: #54 National University (tie)

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Purdue

NCAA ranking: 7

U.S. News & World Report: #56 National University (tie)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Texas

NCAA ranking: 39

U.S. News & World Report: #56 National University (tie)

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Syracuse

NCAA ranking: 44

U.S. News & World Report: #61 National University (tie)

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Clemson

NCAA ranking: 19

U.S. News & World Report: #67 National University

(Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images)

Texas A&M

NCAA ranking: 25

U.S. News & World Report: #69 National University (tie)

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Virginia Tech

NCAA ranking: 31

U.S. News & World Report: #69 National University (tie)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Texas Christian University (TCU)

NCAA ranking: 24

U.S. News & World Report: #78 National University (tie)

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Florida State

NCAA ranking: 38

U.S. News & World Report: #81 National University (tie)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Michigan State

NCAA ranking: 9

U.S. News & World Report: #81 National University (tie)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

North Carolina State

NCAA ranking: 37

U.S. News & World Report: #81 National University (tie)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Buffalo

NCAA ranking: 51

U.S. News & World Report: #97 National University (tie)

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Oklahoma

NCAA ranking: 40

U.S. News & World Report: #97 National University (tie)

(Photo by David Stacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Auburn

NCAA ranking: 13

U.S. News & World Report: #103 National University (tie)

(Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Loyola-Chicago

NCAA ranking: 46

U.S. News & World Report: #103 National University (tie)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Tennessee

NCAA ranking: 10

U.S. News & World Report: #103 National University (tie)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Alabama

NCAA ranking: 36

U.S. News & World Report: #110 National University (tie)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Arizona State

NCAA ranking: 43

U.S. News & World Report: #115 National University (tie)

(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kansas

NCAA ranking: 3

U.S. News & World Report: #115 National University (tie)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Missouri

NCAA ranking: 32

U.S. News & World Report: #120 National University (tie)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Seton Hall

NCAA ranking: 29

U.S. News & World Report: #124 National University (tie)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Arizona

NCAA ranking: 16

U.S. News & World Report: #124 National University (tie)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Arkansas

NCAA ranking: 26

U.S. News & World Report: #133 National University (tie)

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cincinnati

NCAA ranking: 8

U.S. News & World Report: #133 National University (tie)

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Kentucky

NCAA ranking: 17

U.S. News & World Report: #133 National University (tie)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

San Diego State

NCAA ranking: 45

U.S. News & World Report: #140 National University (tie)

(Photo by Josh Holmberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kansas State

NCAA ranking: 34

U.S. News & World Report: #145 National University (tie)

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rhode Island

NCAA ranking: 28

U.S. News & World Report: #156 National University (tie)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Maryland – Baltimore County

NCAA ranking: 63

U.S. News & World Report: #159 National University (tie)

(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Texas Tech

NCAA ranking: 12

U.S. News & World Report: #176 National University (tie)

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Lipscomb

NCAA ranking: 59

U.S. News & World Report: #181 National University (tie)

(Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

West Virginia

NCAA ranking: 18

U.S. News & World Report: #187 National University (tie)

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Houston

NCAA ranking: 23

U.S. News & World Report: #192 National University (tie)

(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New Mexico State

NCAA ranking: 47

U.S. News & World Report: #198 National University (tie)

(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

California State University -- Fullerton

NCAA ranking: 61

U.S. News & World Report: #202 National University (tie)

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Nevada

NCAA ranking: 27

U.S. News & World Report: #202 National University (tie)

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Montana

NCAA ranking: 56

U.S. News & World Report: #207 National University (tie)

(Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

South Dakota State

NCAA ranking: 49            

U.S. News & World Report: #216 National University (tie)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Georgia State

NCAA ranking: 60

U.S. News & World Report: #223 National University (tie)

(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wichita State

NCAA ranking: 14

U.S. News & World Report: #231-300 National University

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Texas Southern

NCAA ranking: 68

U.S. News & World Report: #231-300 National University

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

University of North Carolina -- Greensboro

NCAA ranking: 52

U.S. News & World Report: #231-300 National University

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Wright State

NCAA ranking: 57

U.S. News & World Report: #231-300 National University

(Photo by Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Davidson

NCAA ranking: 48

U.S. News & World Report: #10 National Liberal Arts College

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Bucknell

NCAA ranking: 55

U.S. News & World Report: #33 National Liberal Arts College

(Photo by Brian Utesch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Creighton

NCAA ranking: 30

U.S. News & World Report: #1 Regional University (Midwest)

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Providence

NCAA ranking: 35

U.S. News & World Report: #1 Regional University (North)

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Butler

NCAA ranking: 33

U.S. News & World Report: #2 Regional University (Midwest)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Gonzaga

NCAA ranking: 15

U.S. News & World Report: #4 Regional University (West)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Xavier

NCAA ranking: 4

U.S. News & World Report: #5 Regional University (Midwest)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

College of Charleston

NCAA ranking: 53

U.S. News & World Report: #12 Regional University (South)

(Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

St. Bonaventure

NCAA ranking: 42

U.S. News & World Report: #21 Regional University (North)

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Murray State

NCAA ranking: 50

U.S. News & World Report: #32 Regional University (South)

(Photo by Stephen Furst/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Marshall

NCAA ranking: 54

U.S. News & World Report: #43 Regional University (South) (tie)

(Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportwire)

Radford

NCAA ranking: 65

U.S. News & World Report: #43 Regional University (South) (tie)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Stephen F. Austin

NCAA ranking: 58

U.S. News & World Report: #73 Regional University (West)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Iona

NCAA ranking: 62

U.S. News & World Report: #75 Regional University (North)

(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

North Carolina Central

NCAA ranking: 67

U.S. News & World Report: #80 Regional University (South)

(Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Long Island University -- Brooklyn

NCAA ranking: 66

U.S. News & World Report: Not ranked

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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