Everyone was predicting the upset here. At the end of the first half, a lot of those same people were feeling pretty good. Loyola Chicago came out on fire, hitting 6 of their first 7 shots. Miami looked slower and less prepared. Luckily, this trend was not long-lived, as the Canes were able to respond and keep pace for the remainder of the half, as we entered the half tied 28-28. Still, the Canes were outrebounded, and outscored in the paint as well as on the break. Loyola looked like the better team for 20 minutes.
The Canes came out a different team to start the second half, and after an 11-4 run early, the Canes led 39-32. The Canes were sparked by 3 straight lay-ups, as their desire to get into the paint was very evident. The Ramblers refused to go away, and fought back to tie the game at 60 with 1:17 left. Senior Ja’Quan Newton showed up at the end like he has late in the season, hitting a step back jumper to put Miami up 62-60 with 30 seconds to go. After a questionable foul call, Loyola had an opportunity to tie the game at the line, but could only hit 1 of 2 to cut the lead to 62-61 with 23 seconds left. Lonnie Walker IV went to the line with a chance to give the Canes a much needed cushion, but missed the first of a 1 and 1, so any shot would win it for the Ramblers. With 9 seconds left, Loyola went down the court and found Donte Ingram for 3 at the top of the key, which fell leaving only 0.3 seconds on the clock. The Canes couldn’t get a good look on a hail mary pass, and just like that, the season was over.
Lonnie Walker IV led the Canes with 12 points, while 3 others joined him in double figures as Dewan Huell and Ja’Quan Newton each had 11, and Chris Lykes pitched in 10. Miami shot 51% from the floor, 4 of 9 from 3, and hit a very typical 8 of 13 from the line. Loyola was led by Clayton Custer who finished with 14 points, including the 3 that tied the game at 60. Donte Ingram added 13, and Cameron Krutwig started off hot and finished with 11. The Ramblers shot 47% from the floor, 8 of 21 from 3, and 4 of 9 from the line. The effort was definitely there for Miami in the second half, but the Canes could not shake Loyola.
A very competitive contest in which neither team led by more than 7 points, it’ll be hard to swallow the fact that the loss came mostly as a result of self-inflicted wounds. Miami committed 16 turnovers compared to only 11 assists (Loyola had 19 assists to only 10 turnovers). Those mistakes led to 15 points off turnovers for Loyola compared to only 8 for Miami.
The Canes came in with the possibility of making a solid run in the tournament to salvage a season that fell short of expectations, however the loss felt like an accurate representation of the season as a whole. Miami was a team that could not capitalize on its talent advantage, and could not get out of its own way. With Miami’s best two players possibly leaving for the NBA next season (and no new recruits at the moment), we may never get to realize the true potential of this young team. Time to vent, then go back to the drawing board for next season.