Loyola-Chicago hit the biggest shot of the first full day of the NCAA Tournament and will be looking to build off that momentum Saturday when the Ramblers face No. 3 seed Tennessee in a South Regional game in Dallas.
Donte Ingram buried a go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the key with 0.4 seconds remaining to upset Miami and send the No. 11-seed Ramblers into the second round.
“As a kid, this is what you grow up seeing, hoping that you can be in that moment,” Ingram said. “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, and I’m happy that we can get on and advance to Tennessee.”
The Volunteers advanced with a 73-47 blowout of Wright State on Thursday. Tennessee’s star tandem of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield combined for 29 points and 21 rebounds, and the Vols’ stingy defense held Wright State to 31.7 percent shooting, including just 4 of 21 from 3-point range.
“Defensively, we were really pretty good today against a team that’s not a very easy team to guard,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Offensively, we missed some easy ones early, but we settled in and got our offense going.”
Tennessee (26-8) was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team SEC by the media in the preseason. The Volunteers exceeded those expectations and won a share of the SEC regular-season title, despite not having a bevy of well-known players.
“Overall we’ve got a group of guys that have embraced that talent of working hard,” said Barnes, who is in the NCAA Tournament for the 23rd time. “We’ve tried to create our own standard, our own identity in terms of how hard we think we can play on defense and on offense when we stay together and execute — I mean, we missed some shots at the beginning of the game that we need to knock down, but that’s part of the game, and you expect some of that, especially in the opening game of this tournament. But we settled in, and again, I think our players are probably a little bit better certainly than people thought at the beginning of the year.”
Loyola-Chicago (29-5), champion of the Missouri Valley Conference, has won 11 in a row. The Ramblers opened the season with an 84-80 win over Wright State and also count a win over Florida under their belt.
Clayton Custer scored 14 points to lead four Ramblers in double figures against the Hurricanes.
Custer says he and his teammates aren’t feeling any pressure.
“We’re in the situation where we can go out there and play free and play the way we’ve been playing all year,” Custer said. “And I think we’re a scary team if we’re playing free and like we have nothing to lose. I think that’s a big part of what we’ve been doing.”
Loyola-Chicago is fifth in the nation in points allowed, surrendering just 62.2 points per game.