By: Sammy Stava
It was the match-up of the year in the Missouri Valley Conference. The top two seeds met on Sunday afternoon in the Arch Madness Championship Game to determine who gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Emotions were high, stakes were high, and the rubber game of the season between No. 1 seed Loyola and No. 2 seed Drake lived up to the hype – at least in the first half.
Loyola’s spark came with 10:00 minutes remaining in the first half after a technical foul called on their senior guard Keith Clemons. Drake made two free throws after that to cut it to 18-14, but the Ramblers responded with a 6-0 run immediately.
The Ramblers took a 36-31 lead into halftime, but it was the first time all weekend they have been seriously tested. But, Loyola responded to adversity like a No. 1 seed should. A 7-0 run in the early stages of the second half gave the Ramblers a 48-35 lead.
Drake wouldn’t go away, however – as the Bulldogs cut the Ramblers’ lead to 56-48 with 7:26 remaining in the game. But a costly technical foul called on Joseph Yesufu changed the momentum of the finish.
Loyola just had to make their free throws down the stretch – and they did. The Ramblers are your 2021 Arch Madness Champions with a 75-65 victory over the Bulldogs. Braden Norris and Cameron Krutwig led the team with 20 points as Loyola improved to 24-4 overall on the season. Krutwig was named as the Missouri Valley Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
On Selection Sunday, the Loyola Ramblers will just await their seed as an automatic bid. Drake will have to wait and see if they make the Field of 68 as an at-large team in hopes of the Missouri Valley becoming a two-bid league. That hasn’t happened since 2016.