SAN ANTONIO – Loyola-Chicago’s dream and also spiritual season ended in San Antonio after losing Saturday to Michigan in the Final Four, 69-57.
The game started in Michigan’s favor with the only three-pointers between the two teams in the first half coming from point guard Charles Matthews and then center Mortiz “Moe” Wagner.
The Michigan Wolverines led the Loyola Ramblers 6-4 with 16:09 on the game clock when Michigan went on a 9-0 run, forcing Loyola to call a timeout at the 12:38 mark.
Down 12-4 to the Wolverines, Loyola-Chicago had a tough time hitting the boards getting out-rebounded, 13 to 6 during Michigan’s run.
"Just tagging off what Dre (Jackson) said, it was rebounding. And obviously, the turnovers hurt us as well, two categories that we want to be on the better side of in our game goals for each game. And we failed both of those goals," Loyola forward Donte Ingram said.
However, Texas native Aundre Jackson and starters Marques Townes, Cameron Krutwig would keep the Ramblers in the game.
After several made free throws, Loyola would claw its way back with its own 9-0 run and lead the Wolverines 17-15 with less than six minutes left in the first half.
Michigan’s 6-foot-11 Wagner would stop the bleeding and end the run with no answer for him down low when the Ramblers took out the 6-foot-9 Krutwig and went to a small ball scheme at times.
The ball would be on the Ramblers’ court for the rest of the way, ending the first half on a high note off of starting forward Donte Ingram’s buzzer beater to put Loyola 29-22 over Michigan.
The underdog Ramblers kept their foot on the gas pedal, starting the second half where they left off.
Just 20 seconds into the half, Krutwig baited Wagner into an And-1 call underneath the basket leading Loyola to the game’s first double-digit lead, 32-22.
Krutwig ended the semifinal game as the team's leading scorer with 17 points and six rebounds.
Loyola held onto the lead until 6:59 on the clock when it became the “Wagner Show” after his made 3-pointer to tie the game, 47-47, ending the 10-point second half deficit.
"The second half, we ran a little more set plays just because we were in front our bench, so it's easy to call. And our offense was a lot more organized. It just happened to be like that," Wagner said.
The Ramblers' offense collapsed due to four straight turnovers and finished the game with 17.
"We had that run with the turnovers. And it snowballed on us. And they hit some shots. I don't think it was any one thing. We tried to space it and cut hard. Their length. They're really good defensively," Loyola head coach Porter Moser said.
Wagner went on to score 11 straight points to help the Wolverines overtake the Ramblers and grab the team’s first double-digit lead, 61-51.
The Wolverine center ended the game with a double-double off of 24 points and 15 rebounds, adding him to a committee of only two players to have posted that achievement in a national semifinal: Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird.
"If you put it like that, that's it's probably cool. But to be honest, I kept looking possession by possession, we had trouble scoring the first half," Wagner said. "And I honestly just tried to do my job. The shots were falling the second half. It's a lot more fun when the ball goes to the net. And, yeah, it's just worked out that way."
Loyola had no answers for Wagner and Michigan's defensive play.
"I think our defense created some turnovers. I don't think we had any fastbreak points out of it, but we just stopped them. They're really difficult at this time in front of their bench, calling their plays. They run some great action. And they were going to get to some stuff," Michigan head coach John Beilein said.
Behind the team's chaplain and now-celebrity Sister Jean, the 11th-seeded "Cinderella" Ramblers (32-6), however, made a statement in this year's tournament putting their school on the map for next year's March Madness.
"Sister Jean just said it was a great season. She was so happy to be on this run with us and we should keep our heads high and be happy with what we accomplished," Jackson said.
✌🏾☝🏾👌🏾: The #LoyolaRamblers magical & SPIRITUAL season ended here in #SanAntonio, losing to #Michigan 69-57. Turnovers were key to their semifinal loss & no answer for #Wolverines talented 6-foot-11 Moe Wagner. STORY➡️https://t.co/FXs4EGPwVc #KSATnews #FinalFour— Adrian Garcia (@adrianrolgarcia) April 1, 2018
For the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines, the team looks to revenge their 2013 loss in the NCAA championship and win its first title since 1989.
The Wolverines (33-7) will either face the Villanova Wildcats or the Kansas Jayhawks on Monday at the Alamodome.