ATLANTA, Ga. – Loyola got a game-high 23 points from senior guard Ben Richardson and used a 57.4 percent (27-of-47) shooting effort to surge ahead of and hold off K-State, 78-62, in the South Regional Semifinal at Phillips Arena Saturday.
The loss ends K-State’s 2017-18 campaign with its 25-win season (25-11) in school history and the first since winning 27 games in 2012-13. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in the past 12-years, including the program’s 12th Elite Eight appearance.
The Wildcats were led by sophomore Xavier Sneed’s 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 mark from beyond the arc, while the Wildcats added double-figure scoring efforts from junior guards Barry Brown Jr. (14) and Kamau Stokes (13). As a team, the Wildcats shot 34.8 percent (23-of-66) from the field, while committing only 6 turnovers in the game.
K-State had two players, Brown and Sneed, selected to the South Regional All-Tournament team, as selected by a panel of voters from the United States Basketball Writers Association. Sneed accounted for 38 points in the two South Regional games, while Brown registered two double-digit scoring efforts in the two games.
Loyola (32-5) secures their first NCAA Final Four bid since 1963 with their win on Saturday, as they were led by a game-high 21 points from Richardson, who led three players in double-figures. The Ramblers shot 57 percent (27-of-47) from the field and 50 percent (9-of-18) from beyond the arc, while jumping out to a 36-24 lead in the first half to secure the Final Four bid against the winner of No. 3 seed Michigan (30-7) and No. 9 seed Florida State (22-11) to be played later Saturday night.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Loyola struck first after winning the opening tip, as the Ramblers were able to find an opening bucket inside. For K-State, the opening basket came from Sneed, who led the team in scoring against Kentucky on Thursday, with a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead with 2:22 into the game.
Loyola continued to find buckets early on, as they jumped out to an early 12-5 lead, hitting their first 5-of-7 shots from the field.
After the first media timeout, Loyola continued to pour it on, going on an 11-0 run to extend its lead to 15-5. During that span, the Ramblers connected on five consecutive shots, including two 3-pointers from Richardson. In all, the Rattler’s offense came out firing to start the game, connecting on 8 of the first 10 shots, including scoring 10 of their first 19 points in the paint lead 19-9 with 11:28 remaining in the first half.
Despite the early run from the Ramblers, the Wildcats came clawing back. Near the mid-point of the first half, K-State had trimmed the lead to seven points at 21-14 with Sneed scoring five consecutive points for the Wildcats. After drawing back within single digits, Brown brought K-State to within five with 5:55 left in the half at 27-22, after earning an and-one near the basket.
Loyola was able to extend their lead back to double figures just before the halftime buzzer, as Richardson connected on a 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining. Loyola held the advantage, 36-24 at the break, where they shot 55.5 percent (15-of-27) in the half including a team-high 11 points from Richardson.
K-State shot 37 percent (10-of-27) from the field, including 12 points off Loyola turnovers. The Wildcats were led by Brown’s nine points in the first half.
Redshirt freshman Cartier Diarra came out firing in the second half for the Wildcats, scoring the first seven points of the half for the Wildcats, including an open 3-pointer to get the scoring started for the Wildcats, but the Ramblers wouldn’t budge.
Loyola continued their prolific scoring from the first half, as Richardson completed a four-point play to bring the score to 44-29 with 16:54 left in the game. Following the Richardson four-point play, the Ramblers would go on a 9-0 run against the Wildcats, garnering a lead of 54-33 with 13:23 left.
Minutes later, Loyola would get their largest lead of the night at 61-38 with 9:40 remaining behind a layup from freshman guard Lucas Williamson.
Despite being down, the Wildcats showed fight until the end, as Sneed and junior guard Kamau Stokes connected on back-to-back 3-pointers for the Wildcats to bring the score to 61-46 with 6:07 remaining. The two 3-pointers helped K-State to put a 10-0 run on the Ramblers.
Over the next two minutes, the Wildcats would draw to with 12 after junior guard Amaad Wainright collected a rebound off a Diarra miss and scored to bring the score to 64-52 with 4:17 remaining. Over 4:51, the Wildcats outscored to Ramblers 14-3 to draw closer.
With 2:33 remaining, Loyola redshirt junior guard Marques Townes scored on an and-one going to the basket to give the Ramblers a 69-52 lead.
Despite the late run, K-State was unable to come back against the Ramblers, falling 78-62. After falling behind early, the Wildcats were unable to regain the lead from the Ramblers, as Loyola led for 38:49 of the game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Xavier Sneed – After a 22-point game on Thursday against Kentucky, sophomore forward Xavier Sneed scored a team-high 16 points on 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-6 from long range. Sneed’s 16 points mark the 22nd time this season the sophomore has scored in double-digits this season and the 35th time in his career.
STAT OF THE GAME
25 – K-State’s 25 wins mark the sixth time in school history the team has accomplished the feat, and the first time since 2012-13, when the team won 27 games. The Wildcats made their 12th appearance in school history and their 30th NCAA appearance.