Oregon State’s unexpected storybook season will continue into the Elite Eight.
The No. 12 seeded Beavers stifled Loyola Chicago early with a zone defense and fed off star Ethan Thompson on offense to upset the Ramblers 65-58 on Saturday in the men’s Sweet 16 at Indianapolis. They became just the second No. 12 seed to make the Elite Eight, joining Missouri in 2002.
Loyola Chicago had one of its worst shooting games of the entire season, only going 5-for-23 from three-point range (22%) and managing a season-worst 16 points in the first half. The Ramblers (26-5) sliced a second-half double-digit lead to three points off an alley-oop from Braden Norris to Aher Uguak with 3:31 remaining. But Oregon State (20-12) made the offensive plays it needed down the stretch – going 18-for-20 from the free-throw line to reach its first Elite Eight since 1966.
Thompson finished with 22 points in the win to lead OSU. The Beavers’ unexpected March Madness run started with a Pac-12 tournament victory to garner the league’s automatic bid. Now they’ve knocked out No. 5 Tennessee, No. 4 Oklahoma State and No. 8 Loyola Chicago. The Beavers were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 in the preseason.
Loyola senior big man Cameron Krutwig led the way for the Ramblers with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. But his teammates didn’t heat up until later in the game – when it was too late. Krutwig was one of the key players on Loyola’s 2018 Final Four run as a freshman, which won’t be replicated now.
Oregon State kept the momentum going against a Loyola squad that predicated its wins this season – including a thrilling upset of No. 1 seed Illinois in the round of 32 – on controlling the tempo. But coach Porter Moser’s team sped up trying to break into the deficit, as its usually potent half court man-to-man offense – with backdoor cuts and pick and rolls – was offset by the zone defense OSU coach Wayne Tinkle utilized.
In the disastrous first half for Loyola, the Ramblers shot 1-for-17 outside of Krutwig. Loyola had only seen a zone defense in 5% of its games playing in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Oregon State’s win Saturday continues an epic run for the Pac-12 in this tournament. The league sent four teams to the Sweet 16, with at least two reaching the Elite Eight – Oregon State and the winner of Oregon-Southern California.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.