Indianapolis, IN – The first day of the second round of the NCAA Tournament was highlighted by Loyola Chicago’s upset of No. 1-seeded Illinois. The Ramblers (26-4) controlled the game from the start and dominated the action on both ends of the court. Illinois (24-7) was one of the hottest teams entering the event, having won 16 of their last 17 games and winning the Big Ten Tournament. The loss by Illinois continued a rough tournament for the Big Ten, allegedly the top conference in the nation according to many media as well as the tournament selection committee. Their loss follows upsets of Ohio State by Oral Roberts and Purdue by North Texas.
Loyola’s Cameron Krutwig was by far the best player on the court. The 6-9 Krutwig finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four steals. He made the right plays all game including several beautiful tap assists. Krutwig’s action in the high post emphasized the defensive issues for Illinois 7-0, 265-pound center Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn didn’t have the foot speed to defend Krutwig away from the basket and at times looked tired. Cockburn was the main focus on offense for Illinois and he was unstoppable when he received the ball in the low post. He finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Illinois star guard Ayo Dosunmu had an off-game as the Ramblers defensive pressure bothered him. Dosunmu finished with only nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, was held to two three-point attempts and committed six turnovers.
Baylor, the other top-seeded team in action, had little problem in dispatching Wisconsin 76-63. The Bears (24-2) look to be back in form after recovering from their COVID break. They were efficient on offense, hitting 8-of-17 from deep and forced the Badgers (18-13) into 13 turnovers while only committing four. Matthew Mayer came off the bench to lead Baylor with 17 points and six rebounds while Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell both added 16. Wisconsin’s Brad Davison, coming off was career high 29 points in the Badgers win over North Carolina, was limited to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Perhaps even more surprising than Loyola’s win, No. 15-seed Oral Roberts continued their run taking the lead late in an 81-78 victory over No. 7-seed Florida. The Gators maintained a single-digit lead through much of the game until DeShang Weaver scored his only points of the game, a three-pointer from the corner to give Oral Roberts a 80-78 lead. Florida had a chance to tie the game on their last possession but three-pointers were missed by Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis. 6-8 Kevin Obanor led the winners with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Max Abnas, the leading scorer in the nation, added 26 points and seven assists, making all 12 of his free throws. Mann led the Gators with 19 points and added seven rebounds and four assists. Oral Roberts won despite being outrebounded 34-20. They forced 19 Florida (15-10) turnovers while committing only 11.
Oregon State, a 12-seed continued their recent excellent play. After falling behind early they went on an 18-4 run to take control of the contest in the first half against Oklahoma State. The Beavers” top player, Ethan Thompson picked up his second foul early and stayed on the bench much of the first half. Maurice Calloo, a 6-10 forward averaging five points, exploded for 15 first half points, hitting three 3s and leading the Beavers to a 44-30 halftime lead. Oklahoma State, a 4-seed, picked up the pace in the second half and cut the deficit to two points but couldn’t get any closer. The Beavers closed it out late in a 80-70 win. Thompson came on in the second half to lead the game with 26 points, hitting 15-of-16 from the charity stripe. The Beavers dominated the boards by a 49-28 margin. Roman Silva and Warith Alatishe both pulled down 12 rebounds. Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham scored 24 points but was 6-of-20 from the field (4-of-11 on 3s). The Beavers were 30-of-33 from the foul line while Oklahoma State missed 12, shooting 26-of-38. The Beavers will go on to face Loyola in the Sweet Sixteen. The win gave the Pac-12 a 6-0 record in the tournament, by far the best record of the major conferences.
It was questionable if Syracuse, an 11-seed, would even get into the tournament this year. Now they are headed to the Sweet Sixteen after topping 3-seed West Virginia 75-72. The Orange went out to a 14-point first half lead helped by four three-pointers from Joe Girard. West Virginia battled back helped by the three-point shooting by Sean McNeal (7-of-13 3s, 23 points) and took a one-point lead. Syracuse (18-9) came right back as Buddy Boeheim got a hot hand after shooting 1-of-6 in the first half. Boeheim made 7-of-11 second half shots and finished the game with 25 points, connecting on 6-of-13 from deep. West Virginia (19-10) cut a late 9-point Syracuse lead to two points with four seconds left but that was as close as they would get. This is the third time in the last five years that Syracuse has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen as a double-digit seed.
Arkansas held off a second half Texas Tech surge to escape with a 68-66 victory. Texas Tech had an early 10-point lead but Arkansas (24-6) came back to take a 33-31 halftime lead. The Razorbacks expended their lead to 13 points before the Red Raiders went on a 14-2 run to cut a 13-point deficit to one. In the last minute, Texas Tech had two chances to take the lead but Mac McClung missed the front end of a one-and-one and Terrence Shannon Jr. (20 points) missed inside. After an Arkansas free throw Tech had another chance to tie or take the lead on the final possession but Kyler Edwards couldn’t get a driving layup to go down. Texas Tech (18-11) got back into the game on their 3-point shooting (10-of-20). Justin Smith led Arkansas in scoring with 20 points, connecting on 9-of-11 from the field.
No. 2-seed Houston went on a 14-2 run to close the game and escape with a 63-60 win over Rutgers, a 10 seed. Tramon Mark scored on an offensive rebound with 24 seconds left, was fouled and made the foul shot to give the Cougars a one-point lead. On the following possession Marcus Sasser stole the ball from Geo Baker, was fouled and made both shots to extend Houston’s lead to three points. Rutgers had a chance to tie on their final possession. The Cougars (26-3) elected not to foul and Ron Harper Jr. missed a three-pointer that would have sent the game to overtime. Houston trailed much of the second half until their late comeback. Houston’s DeJon Jarreau, playing through a painful hip pointer, scored 17 points and added six rebounds while Quentin Grimes led the team with 22 points (5-of-9 from deep) and had a team-leading nine rebounds. Baker led the Scarlet Knights (16-12) with 14 points.
Villanova was one favorite that had no problems. The No. 5-seeded Wildcats went out to a 20-point halftime lead and coasted to an 84-61 win over No. 13-seed North Texas. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the winners with 18 points and added six rebounds and six assists. Javion Hamlet led North Texas with a game-high 25 points with six rebounds and four assists. Villanova hit 50 percent (15-of-30) of their three-point shots.