DALLAS — The difference between Donte Ingram etching himself a place in NCAA tournament lore came down to who got the rebound on a missed free throw.
The Loyola-Chicago guard’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the March Madness logo on Thursday sent the 11th-seeded Ramblers to the second round with a 64-62 win over sixth-seeded Miami in the South Region. It was kick-started by a rebound by guard Ben Richardson and an outlet to guard Marques Townes.
“Well, if our big man would have gotten the rebound, [Cameron] Krutwig, we would have called a timeout,” Ingram said. “Since a guard got it, coach would be like, ‘Hey, let’s attack, let’s go.’
“So when Marques pushed it up court, he attacked and he drew a lot of attention. So when I saw I had some open space, I gave him a verbal [cue], and I knocked down the shot.”
Townes, who made the game-winning assist, said he heard his teammate call for the pass quite well.
“‘MARQUES!'” Townes said, emulating Ingram’s call for the ball. “Loud and clear. … Donte gave me a loud verbal and I passed it to him, and he hit a big-time shot.”
Loyola coach Porter Moser offered additional explanation.
“We call it ‘attack,'” Moser said. “We space the floor and get guys going downhill. … I’ve called timeout in that situation and I haven’t called timeout in that situation. One of the things is, when [the defense] is backpedaling and loose, sometimes you can get a shot like that.”
It was a landmark win for the Ramblers in more ways than one. Thursday marked their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985. It also came on the 55-year anniversary of Loyola’s “Game of Change.”
On March 15, 1963, Loyola defied the unwritten rule of not playing more than three black players at once by starting four black players in an NCAA tournament game versus an all-white Mississippi State team. The game was played at a pivotal moment in civil rights history. For its part, Mississippi State went against a legislative order that banned the Bulldogs from playing an integrated team and snuck across state lines to compete in the game.
Loyola would win that game and go on to win the NCAA championship that season.
“From the very beginning, I’ve said the past is part of our future,” Moser said Wednesday. “And when you start talking about the ’63 national championship team and what they went through with segregation and the ‘Game of Change,’ I think that has been one of the best things.”
Loyola-Chicago had a believer in former President Barack Obama, who picked the Ramblers to pull off the upset in the bracket he tweeted out Wednesday.
Congrats to @LoyolaChicago and Sister Jean for a last-second upset – I had faith in my pick!
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 15, 2018
Sister Jean Schmidt, the Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain, said she sees similarities between that title team and the current Loyola squad, both of which she has seen firsthand.
“They share the ball,” Schmidt said in an interview with Turner Sports after Thursday’s game.
“They don’t care. They share the ball, they have great teamwork and they’re really good guys, and so was the team of ’63.”
Schmidt also saw the 1985 team, the Ramblers’ last to make the NCAA tournament.
Thursday’s ending, however, was as memorable as they come.
“I saw the 1963 team and the 1985 team, but I have to say that this was exceptional today, what Donte did,” Schmidt said. “But I knew we’d do it.”
Everyone in Loyola colors was similarly confident in the result.
Freshman guard Lucas Williamson said his trust in Ingram is “100 percent.”
“Donte is our senior leader,” Williamson said. “I’d have him take that shot 1,000 times over and over and over again.”
Ingram had no doubts, either.
“I wasn’t ready to go home,” Ingram said. “I wanted to get a win. When I got an empty space, I let it fly. I knew it was going to go in.”