By Peyton Wesner
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Two years ago, the Loyola (IL) Ramblers were the new kids in the Missouri Valley Conference and were welcomed into their first “Arch Madness” as the ten seed.
Then, the legend of Milton Doyle was born.
Doyle, a freshman at the time, drained a game-winning buzzer-beater from way beyond the NBA three-point line to send his team to Day 2 and collect the program’s first MVC Tournament win in dramatic fashion.
Thursday, was the rematch and a chance for the Bradley Braves to avenge the loss.
Better luck next time.
Even though the freshman-filled Braves limited Doyle to 11 minutes (foul trouble), the Ramblers scrapped out a 74-66 victory due to a big performance from “stud sophomore” Donte Ingram and All-MVC 2nd teamer Montel James.
Both shooting the ball very well early, Bradley and Loyola (IL)’s point totals soared while the previous landed the first punch with an 7-0 run that sent the lead to a game-high six (15-9 BU).
Controlling such an edge past the halfway mark in the first half, the Braves showed a defensively dominant Ramblers team that this grudge-match would be a dogfight.
Perhaps that is how Porter Moser’s group preferred it though.
Loyola (IL), clawing within two with four straight by Julius Rajala, ran in front of the opposition just after the final media timeout of the first twenty minutes with two Montel James free throws that capped a 12-4 spurt (24-22 LOY).
But, Bradley fought back to an even score at the last second possible as “fab freshman” Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye canned a buzzer-beating tripe a few feet on their side of mid-court to knot it at 29 heading into recess.
On the other side of halftime, back and forth action ensued as the fifth tie transpired at 31 less than a minute in while the sixth later occurred ten points and 7 minutes later (41-41). However, soon James spurred a 10-2 domination, in which Devon Turk ended with one of his three treys, to supply a then game-high 8 point advantage at the 10:09 mark. Furthermore, the Ramblers created a double-figures gap less than 90 seconds later!
Two month ago, Bradley would have gone away quietly. But, not on this night.
The Braves, quickly cutting their deficit in half, used their transition offense on secondary breaks and steals to push the pace and score five unanswered (55-50 LOY).
Yet, the Ramblers swiftly re-upped their lead to double-digits thanks to three from each Ingram and James (63-52 LOY).
Although Ogunleye-Lautier propelled his squad within six before the media timeout and the fouling game, as instructed by Brian Wardle, kept the Braves alive for as long as possible, the Ramblers took care of business at the charity stripe (made 6-of-8) in route to a “closer than the score entailed” win.
Lighting A Fire
“That’s on me. That’s our scouting report. I give Ingram a lot of credit, last five game stats we really look at overall in conference. When guys are shooting under 35 percent, you can put a hand up and let them get the threes.”
—Bradley Braves’ head coach Brian Wardle
Coach Wardle was right, Loyola (IL) Ramblers “stud sophomore” Donte Ingram had struggled in his last five, for he was shooting 32.6% from the floor.
Key word was HAD.
Despite struggling in his four career games versus the Braves, Ingram ignored a woeful 0-for-3 first half and came out like a cannonball in the second. The 6’6″ wing made his first field goal, a trey, at the 17:11 mark and provided the next ten points. In fact, he was trading baskets with the whole Bradley team! Yes, Ingram did eventually cool off but he ended the night with a season-high 19 points.
Montel James led the way in scoring and rebounding for the Ramblers as he had a monster double-double of 20 points and 17 rebounds.
A Night To Forget
On January 2, “jazzy junior” Milton Doyle had arguably the worst game of his career as he was held scoreless on four shot attempts at Indiana State.
Thursday evening was more painful to an extent.
Picking up two personal fouls in a matter of minutes, MD35 had to hit the pine at the 13:53 mark. Then, he re-entered, and moments later another whistle was blown. All in all, Doyle was only able to stay on the court for 11 minutes and finished with 2 points.
“We had some guys that were stepping up that have been on this stage before. You remember Milton missed all those games last year. But it was kind of wild. Every time he got in, it seemed like he got a foul in the first minute. I told him, let’s look at the glass half full. You’re going to be fresh against Wichita (State).”
—Loyola (IL) Ramblers’ head coach Porter Moser
The 15-16 (8-11) Ramblers will take on the first seed, the Wichita State Shockers, in the first game tomorrow afternoon.
“Obviously, we lost to them twice this year, and we didn’t play how we could have played. Right now we’re just taking one game at a time, and I know the coaches are going to do their job getting the game plan for us, and it’s up to us to execute it.”
—Loyola (IL) Ramblers’ Donte Ingram on the challenge of taking on Wichita State tomorrow.
There is an old saying in college basketball that states, one starts to play one year older towards the end of a season. The 5-27 (3-15) Bradley Braves are a great example of the following.
A team that had three losing streaks of at least six games this campaign, Brian Wardle’s squad definitely had a performance they can build on going into next year. Three freshmen (Antoine Pittman, Ronnie Suggs, and Dwayne-Lautier-Ogunleye) and sophomore Donte Thomas concluded their season with double-figure point totals while the latter (14 points and 14 rebounds) and Suggs (15 points and 10 rebounds) finished with double-doubles and career-high rebound totals.
“We’ve seen the ups and downs, and we know now what it takes to win at a college level. It’s like, in the beginning of the year, what we had in mind wasn’t exactly what the reality was. But going through this long season, we’re definitely hungry for some more wins, and we will get them this next season.”
—Bradley freshman Ronnie Suggs on how motivated this game and season makes them for next year.
He Said It (Part I)
“This group of young men, I’ve love coaching all year despite our record. High character, great effort, great attitudes every day. Enthusiastic to play. Enthusiastic to get coached. I’ve coached teams that have won that I didn’t enjoy going to work every day to coach. I think every head coach could sit here and say that at some point.”
He Said It (Part II)
“I really wanted to go out there and play my hardest. After the game, I wanted to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself, do I feel like I gave it all my effort? And I felt like I did.”
—Bradley’s Donte Thomas on his mindset coming into the tournament.
He Said It (Part III)
“It’s been great. I wouldn’t want to be on this court with another fie or have another group of teammates ever. I think we’re going to grow. We’re going to keep growing, and we’re just ready for this off-season.”
—Donte Thomas on how this season has been despite the struggles.
He Said It (Part IV)
“Of course this is a game I was expecting because this is a great atmosphere in an MVC Tournament. It’s win or go home.”
—Loyola (IL) Ramblers’ Montel James on the competitiveness of the battle.