INDIANAPOLIS — Ethan Thompson scored 20 points, including a pair of clinching foul shots with 35 seconds left, and No. 12 seed Oregon State kept its dream March going with a 65-58 victory over eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Saturday.
Warith Alatishe added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Beavers (20-12), who were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 but ran roughshod through the conference tournament and have kept on winning on college basketball’s biggest stage.
They’re headed for their first Elite Eight since 1982 — which was later vacated by the NCAA — and will play second-seeded Houston on Monday night for a spot in the Beavers’ first Final Four since 1963.
Not even the fervent prayers of Sister Jean could help Loyola (26-4) deal with the constantly changing defenses that Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle rolled out. The Ramblers, who played with poise and perfection in toppling top-seeded Illinois, wound up shooting 33% from the field and five for 23 from beyond the three-point line.
“They just want to keep riding the wave,” said Tinkle, whose hungry bunch of underdogs have matched Missouri in 2002 as the lowest-seeded teams to advance past the Sweet 16.
“We did use the fact we were picked 12th in the Pac-12 this year,“ Tinkle added, “but we haven’t made a big deal about the 12th seed. I don’t want to throw too much at them. They’ll see it. We just have to keep our feet on the ground.”
All-America forward Cameron Krutwig led Loyola with 14 points. Lucas Williamson and Braden Norris added 10 apiece, though both of them missed three-point attempts in the closing minutes as Loyola tried to mount a comeback.
“Very hard scene in our locker room,” said Ramblers coach Porter Moser, whose name has surfaced in connection with several major-conference jobs. “Kids cared so much, invested so much. Very tough when it comes to an end.”
It was the first meeting between the teams since Dec. 31, 1927, when Loyola won 31-19 and Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the Ramblers’ beloved 101-year-old chaplain, was still a schoolgirl.
For most of Saturday, it looked as if 31 points would be plenty.
Oregon State turned it over twice before getting off a shot, went nearly 6½ minutes before making its first field goal, and over one stretch was one for eight with four turnovers. Loyola, failing to take advantage of its defense, proceeded to miss 11 consecutive shots as Oregon State flip-flopped between man-to-man and zone defenses.
The Beavers wound up shutting out Loyola over the last 5:48 to take a 24-16 halftime lead, the lowest-scoring first half of any game in the tournament. Krutwig was three for five from the field; the rest of the Ramblers were one for 18.
You’d have sworn the Beavers sported the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, not the other way around.
“We’re not in charge of the rankings,” Thompson said. “You know, the preseason, all of that — all we can control is what we can control. That’s going out every night, having fun, giving it our all and trying to win the game. That’s it.”