Loyola downs Illinois State for MVC title, NCAA Tournament berth
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ST. LOUIS -- Step aside, Northwestern. Take a seat, DePaul.
For now, Loyola is the king of Windy City basketball.
The Ramblers earned their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 33 years with a 65-49 win over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game on Sunday.
Donte Ingram scored 18 points and Cameron Krutwig added 11 points and nine rebounds for Loyola-Chicago (28-5), which reached the Sweet 16 in its last NCAA tourney appearance, in 1985.
"We've got much respect for all of the other programs in Illinois and Chicago," Ingram said. "But we're here now and we're going to enjoy this one and think about what we have moving forward."
Mailk Yarbrough and Phil Fayne led Illinois State (18-15) with 12 points each. Fayne added 12 rebounds.
Loyola, which has won 10 in a row, had been an afterthought in Chicago-area basketball circles the past few years.
"It feels awesome," Krutwig said. "It means everything to me right now. Obviously, we're going to celebrate."
Ingram, who earned tournament MVP honors, hit five of 11 shots including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. His four-point play with 6:21 left in the first half capped a 7-2 run that put the Ramblers up 27-18.
"It really changed the outcome of the game," Ingram said. "That was one of those momentum swings. When I get my shot I'm confident and I'm going to take it."
Loyola scored eight of the first 11 points in the second half to take a 43-30 lead.
The Ramblers were appearing in their first conference title game since 2002, when they were members of the Horizon League.
"Tonight we had a laser-like focus to come and get it done," Ingram said. "And we just didn't look back."
Loyola never trailed and raced out to a 9-2 lead after a 3-pointer from Ben Richardson.
"I'm just so happy for these kids. They're doing it the right way," Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser said. "This will connect them for the rest of their lives."
The Ramblers' 10-game winning streak is the longest in Moser's seven years at the helm.
Illinois State, which missed 14 of its first 17 shots, lost in the title game for the third time in the last four years.
"We missed some shots right around the rim," Illinois State coach Dan Muller said. "I think it might have been nerves or a little fatigue."
The championship game was the only contest in the nine-game tournament decided by 10 points or fewer.
Loyola: Moser became the second coach in MVC history to win a title as a player and coach. He played for the Creighton title team in 1988-89. Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois also achieved the feat.
"I'm going to be honest, it was probably more fun as a player," Moser said. "That's why I'm so happy for these guys."
Illinois State: The Redbirds are hoping to receive a berth in the National Invitational Tournament. It would be their 15th NIT appearance overall and second in a row. The Redbirds began play on Sunday with a 78 RPI.
"I'm very, very hopeful for the NIT," Muller said. "We're the eighth-best league in the country."