The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers won’t have a fairytale ending to their Cinderella story as they buckled under the strong firepower of the Michigan Wolverines, which will go on to meet Villanova for the title game.
The Ramblers were actually leading 32-22 with 19:22 minutes in the second half until Moritz Wagner flushed a nasty dunk that swings the momentum to the Wolverines. The forward finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds in the 69-57 win.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Wagner kept Michigan in the ballgame when all his teammates where throwing brick after brick. The field goal percentage of the Wolverines players not named Wagner was 4-23 by the time the halftime buzzer sounded.
Wagner said that he didn’t panic even if they were down by a huge margin. Instead, he just focused on winning each possession until they shave some points from the lead.
“We scored 22 points and that was kind of the only way we found our way to the basket, grab offensive rebounds and get second-shot opportunities,” he told ESPN. “And I honestly just tried to do my job.”
Finally, the shots started falling for the team in the second half, which he quipped is a “lot more fun.”
As for Loyola-Chicago, they had a magical run so forgive them if they couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
Senior guard Ben Richardson, who will either declare for the NBA or go overseas after the summer, said that he will always cherish the memories of going to the floor with his best friend since elementary, Clayton Custer.
“Having him come to Chicago was a dream come true, and we did a lot of things that people probably didn’t think we could do. And we proved a lot of people wrong,” he said. “And I love that guy to death, and we’ll never forget this.”
As for Custer, he’s devastated that he couldn’t help give his best friend a fitting tribute and that’s to win a title for the school. He said that going to the Final Four may be a surreal experience, but losing when they were so close was even more so.