The No. 20 Loras College men’s basketball team made a run for the history books after topping high ranking teams throughout the season such as No. 1 Nebraska Wesleyan and No. 3 Augustana University. However, post-season was different as they topped University of Dubuque in the American Rivers Conference Tournament, but fell to Nebraska Wesleyan in the Championship.
The team was fortunate enough to be noticed by the NCAA to receive a bid, still giving the team a run at the NCAA National Tournament Championships. Loras then took on Albion College for the regional semifinal in Naperville, Illinois and made their presence known, knocking out the panthers 75-64, which allowed Loras to advance to the regional final against No. 15 North Central College in their gym.
“We had so much support at North Central,” said senior guard Josh Ruggles. “It was almost like we were playing a home game. When Coach drew that final play up to get the ball in bounds, we all were ready. It was emotional, especially as a senior. We wanted to leave a legacy, we wanted to leave this program in a better spot than we found it, and I think winning that game and cutting down those nets was symbolic of the positive change we worked so hard for.”
After taking down North Central for the first time in school history and claiming regional championship, the team extended their season for another week to take on No. 4 opponent University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in Oshkosh. This is unfortunately where the road ended for the Duhawks, who lost 86-75.
“Losing at Oshkosh was incredibly difficult,” said Ruggles. “We knew and truly believed that if we played our best basketball, we could beat any team in the country. I think beating the No. 1, No. 3, and No. 15 teams in the country helped support that belief. Unfortunately, we just didn’t play our best basketball that night.”
Loras showed its presence straight out the gates, converting its first possession for two points. The Titans responded by burying a three-pointer to take the lead and hold it for the remainder of the game. The Titan’s Connor Duax lead the game with a total of 26 points, nine of the 26 were taken beyond the arc.
Statistically, Loras had season lows, shooting 26-68 from the floor (38.2%), 3-22 from beyond the arc (13.6%), and 20-28 (71.4%) from the free-throw line. The Duhawks did own the edge for turnovers (7-11) and steals (7-4). However, Loras was limited to a season low of only seven assists.
“Playing in the national tournament was a dream come true,” said Ruggles. “Making the sweet 16 and representing this school on the national level is something we all have wanted to do since we stepped foot on this campus for the first time. We have spent thousands of hours in our lives, and we have sacrificed so much for this game, and to be able to make school history made every sacrifice and every hour worth it.”
Senior guard Ryan DiCanio lead the Duhawks with 25 points while Ruggles tallied an additional 14 and sophomore Cole Navigato put up 13. The team finished their entire season 23-7.