DES MOINES – There would be no decisive victory for one side on this day, from this battle went down to the very end.
That wasn’t exactly what Loyola wanted considering they had sweep on their mind after taking a ten-point lead on the road against Drake in the second half at the Knapp Center. They were eyeing two-straight wins against the Missouri Valley Conference’s second place team.
Sitting in first place, the Ramblers would be sitting pretty with a three-game lead heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Yet Drake, who was without one of their top players in ShanQuan Hemphill due to a broken foot suffered earlier in the week, didn’t give in, turning the tables on Loyola in a physical contest at the Knapp Center on Sunday.
For the first time since January 11th, the Ramblers lost a game, dropping a 51-50 decision to the Bulldogs in Des Moines. It snaps their 11-game winning streak and narrows their lead in the MVC to just a single game.
It softens some of the positive vibes that came in a dominating 81-54 win on Saturday in which Loyola outscored their hosts 50-20 in the second half. A win might have put the regular season Valley title away for the Ramblers, but now things get a bit more complicated.
Drake has five games left compared to Loyola’s three, so if they run the table, they’d finish in no worse than a tie for the conference championship.
That didn’t look like it would be the case when Loyola took a ten point lead with 7:44 to go in the game. But the Ramblers’ offense went cold, scoring just three points the rest of the half, and Drake was able to chip away and tied the game on Roman Penn’s layup with 1:26 left in regulation.
Neither team had a lot of offense in the overtime, but the Bulldogs got just enough, and Loyola had three chances in the final 12 seconds to tie or win the game down by a point. But two blocks and a turnover, their 19th of the day, sealed their fate.
“We definitely had our chances, we just didn’t get it done,” said head coach Porter Moser. “It’s very, very hard to play a top team, one of the top teams in the country, a Quad 1 team, on the road a second time in a row.”
It may not be their last meeting, either. Both teams exchange words as they left the court on Sunday, doing so as clearly the best teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. Expect them to meet again before this season is done.