More miracles for Loyola Chicago: Ramblers bounce No. 1 Illinois, off to Sweet 16

Loyola NCAA Tournament
Mar 21, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Loyola Ramblers guard Lucas Williamson (1) and the bench celebrate after a play against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second half in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Loyola Ramblers won 71-58.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness once again has another nun run on its hands.

Loyola-Chicago is off to the Sweet 16 in the 2021 NCAA Tournament as the No. 8 seed of the Midwest Regional upset No. 1 Illinois — a team many had to win the national championship — 71-58 on Sunday afternoon.

It’s the second time in four years that the mid-major program from the Missouri Valley Conference has made it this far in the Big Dance. It made the Final Four as a No. 11 seed, beating notable big-time programs like Miami and Tennessee in 2018 before losing to Michigan in the national semifinals.

Loyola (26-4) moved past No. 9 Georgia Tech of the ACC to make it to the second round this year.

With 98-year-old Sister Jean as their unofficial mascot and inspiration, the Ramblers shot 51% from the field while outrebounding Illinois (24-7) — previously given the physical edge over Loyola — 31-27 in the Herculean effort that never saw the underdogs trail.

Center Cameron Krutwig outclassed Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn — one of the premier big men in the nation — dropping 19 points on 9-of-18 shooting with 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, he and the Loyola defense did enough to limit Cockburn to 21 points and nine rebounds on the night.

Even more impressive was the Ramblers’ ability to hold Illinois star guard, Ayo Donsumu, to just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting on the night — a considerable drop for a player who averaged 20.6 points per game this season entering Sunday.

Meanwhile, Loyola received big-time contributions from Lucas Williamson with 14 points and Marquise Kennedy with another 14 off the bench.

They’ll play the winners of No. 4 Oklahoma State and No. 12 Oregon State, which takes place late Sunday night (9:40 p.m. ET).