Loyola continued its best start since the 2009-10 season Tuesday, defeating Boise State 48-45 to win the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic title. The Ramblers are now 10-2 with conference play beginning next week, already matching their win total for all of last season.
“We are so proud of this group of guys,” associate head coach Daniyal Robinson said in a release. “It has been a very emotional 24 hours with last night’s game and the passing of coach’s mom. I thought our guys embraced it and we were really locked in defensively. We always tell them that the shots do not always fall but you can control defense, rebounding and effort and we were terrific in those three areas tonight.”
Boise State (10-3) and Loyola entered Tuesday with two of the nation’s better offensives. Whether it was due to playing the first round of the tournament the night before or a party night in Las Vegas celebrating their respective Monday victories, both teams were sluggish and struggled to score out of the gate. Neither team found much of a groove all night.
Only two players, both on Loyola, scored in double figures.
Boise State was without its top two scorers, Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic, who sat out with injuries.
Loyola took advantage and opened up an early nine-point lead. the Ramblers led 18-10 after leading scorer Milton Doyle drained a 3-pointer with 8:19 to go in the half.
But their Ramblers’ offense stalled, as their next made field goal did not come until Doyle made a layup with 1:31 on the clock. The result was a 17-4 Boise State run to finish the half, and the Broncos took a 27-22 lead into the break.
Boise State opened up its largest lead of the game on the second half’s opening possession as guard Igor Hadziomerovic drilled a triple.
Loyola trailed 33-26, but a 9-0 run led by six points from senior forward Christian Thomas put the Ramblers ahead for the first time in a long time.
Thomas led Loyola down the stretch, finishing with 17 points on 7-for-18 shooting. But Doyle was the one who gave Loyola a 46-45 lead with 2:37 remaining. Freshman Donte Ingram bumped the lead to three points on the next possession, and Boise State failed to score in crunch time.
The Ramblers held the Broncos to no points on 0-for-4 shooting in the final four minutes.
Loyola begins conference play Dec. 31 against Bradley at Gentile Arena.