Loyola Chicago (8-12, 3-5 MVC) defeated Northern Iowa (10-10, 4-4) in an overtime thriller Saturday, 93-87. The Ramblers erased an eight-point deficit in the final 5:08 minutes of regulation and then outscored the Panthers, 17-11, in overtime.
The victory snapped the Ramblers’ five-game losing streak in games decided by single digits.
“[Loyola head coach Porter Moser‘s] experience and what he and his staff have done, I think has helped their young team be able to make strides quickly,” Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson said.
Playing an extra period tested Loyola’s depth, or lack thereof. The Ramblers played primarily six guys Saturday, though they sometimes go as deep as eight.
Junior forward Christian Thomas logged a game-high 44 minutes while three other Ramblers played at least 37.
“Crazy” was all Moser said.
Northern Iowa built a 17-10 lead in the first half, but Loyola closed within two points at halftime. The Ramblers scored the final four points of the half, capped off by sophomore Jeff White‘s fallaway jumper at the buzzer.
The Panthers led 66-58 nearing the five-minute mark, but Loyola freshman Milton Doyle sparked the Ramblers’ comeback with a three-point play.
Junior guard Joe Crisman made a driving layup on the next possession to bring Loyola within 66-63, but Northern Iowa junior Deon Mitchell‘s three-pointer silenced the Ramblers’ upsurging crowd.
The Panthers’ lead remained six points with 1:52 left.
The Ramblers forced overtime by making a living at the charity stripe.
Loyola shot 8-of-8 at the foul line in the final two minutes. Though Northern Iowa made its two free throws during that stretch, it shot 0-of-4 from the field.
Thomas tied the game with 18 seconds left on a pair of free throws.
Northern Iowa had a pair of high-quality shots to win in regulation, but neither fell. Mitchell’s layup rimmed out, and junior forward Seth Tuttle had a wide-open look at the rim but missed as time expired.
Mitchell finished with a team-high 23 points while Tuttle posted 17 points and nine rebounds.
“We wanted to make sure we took the last shot so they wouldn’t have an opportunity to get the last shot up,” Mitchell said. “There was a little contact, but that’s something I should be able to finish through.”
Loyola sophomore Devon Turk opened overtime with a three-pointer from the right corner, and Doyle’s trey two possessions later put the Ramblers up 82-77.
After the Loyola lead grew to six points, Mitchell drilled a triple from straightaway to cut the Panthers’ deficit to 90-87 with 21 seconds left.
Doyle made a pair of free throws on the next possession to essentially ice the game.
Doyle led Loyola with 28 points, six rebounds and six assists. Though the 28 points were not a career-high, the performance was his best overall as a Rambler.
The freshman still made a few questionable plays, but Moser can live with that.
“He’s not going to take 100% good shots,” Moser said. “He’s going to take a couple of bad ones, because he has the ability to make some bad shots. And that’s what you’ve got to live with. Milton, I think, is decreasing his number of bad shots. You’ve got to ride with a guy like Milt, stay with him through a couple of shots.”
Doyle shot 8-of-11 from the field and 10-of-11 at the foul line.
Thomas recorded 20 points, including a pair of forceful dunks. His one-handed tip-slam with 11:31 gave the Ramblers some much-needed life after Northern Iowa extended its lead to seven points.
“He’s got that pop,” Moser said of Thomas. “I like it because he’s aggressive like that.”
Crisman had a balanced stat line with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists, and his impact went beyond the box score.
“Joe, he’s a scrappy, hard-working guy,” said sophomore teammate Jeff White. “He can guard bigs and guards, so h’es like a big energy booster on defense. Very aggressive. He’s a key part on our defense in getting us going.”
Thomas added, “I think he’s an underrated athlete, too.”
White contributed one of his best performances this season with 14 points, seven rebounds and five dimes.
Loyola now sits in seventh place in the Missouri Valley, and it is only one game out of third. The Ramblers are on the road Tuesday at No. 5 Wichita State, which is undefeated this season.