ATLANTA -- Loyola-Chicago's dream run in the NCAA Tournament will extend into the weekend after outlasting Nevada 69-68 in a thriller in the Sweet 16.
Sister Jean, the maroon-and-gold scarves and the patient, efficient offense that has gripped the sport's attention over the last two weeks will get at least a few more days in the spotlight, all thanks to another stellar effort in the clutch by Porter Moser's squad. Against Tennessee, Loyola saw a 10-point lead evaporate in the final minutes before holding off the Vols in the final possessions for a one-point win, but this test would require even more resiliency to advance to the Elite Eight.
Thursday night's win against Nevada was like four games in one. First Nevada came out on fire, then Loyola closed the gap and took the lead prior to halftime. According to Moser, the cause for the slow start and the key for the comeback was communication on defense.
"When we're noisy on defense, we're really good, and we were just kind of -- they had three or four back cuts that we were just kind of stuck in the mud," Moser said. "And I think after the first media time-out, we kind of regrouped and then they were playing -- from then on, they were loud, they were aware, they were in the moment."
The Ramblers started the second half in a beautiful flow offensively, patiently passing the ball around and getting layup after layup in a 13-for-13 start.
Nevada, just as we had seen from it in this NCAA Tournament against Texas and Cincinnati, then mounted its predictable charge back into the game. Jordan Caroline was aggressive inside, providing plenty of presence that you might think would be lacking from a rotation that has no players taller than 6-foot-8.
When Nevada tied the game at 59, there was a feeling of inevitability in the building coming from the Wolf Pack fans that made the cross-country journey to see this historic moment for the program. Nevada's previous two comebacks had ended in wins, so clearly this would, right?
But Loyola, a No. 11 seed, stayed patient and productive. When Nevada, a No. 7 seed, increased the pressure on defense it cared for each possession like it did not buckle, but instead maintained aggression and got good looks at the rim. Nevada played great defense on one of the final possessions of the game, and when Loyola couldn't get the good look it wanted at the rim, Marques Townes buried the Wolf Pack with the most clutch shot we might see in the Sweet 16.
Townes led the Ramblers with 18 points. Nevada's Caleb Martin had a game-high 21 points.
It's the second game-winning shot in the NCAA Tournament for Townes, who beat Miami in the first round.
Loyola will play the winner of Kentucky-Kansas State on Saturday with a spot in the Final Four on the line.