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Loyola Chicago vs. Kansas State: Ramblers having their way with K-State through first half

Loyola Chicago vs. Kansas State: Ramblers having their way with K-State through first half

Ben Richardson of the Loyola Ramblers reacts after a play in the first half against the Kansas State Wildcats during the NCAA tournament South Regional at Philips Arena in Atlanta. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Loyola Chicago’s success is continuing in the second half. The Ramblers took a 15-point lead with 16 minutes to play on a four-point play from Ben Richardson.

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March Madness keeps rambling on.

Through one half in the Elite Eight, Loyola Chicago — a No. 11 seed — has a 36-24 lead over Kansas State. The NCAA tournament’s Cinderella is 20 minutes away from the Final Four.

Ben Richardson leads the Ramblers with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Freshman center Cameron Krutwig is dominating the Wildcats inside, with seven points and five rebounds. Kansas State’s top two big men each have two fouls thanks to dealing with Krutwig in the paint.

Loyola opened the game on a 15-5 run and finished the half on 9-2 streak which included this layup, plus the foul, by Lucas Williamson.

Barry Brown leads Kansas State with nine points. The Wildcats are shooting 37 percent from the field and 22 percent from three point range.

Through the first 20 minutes, Sister Jean and Loyola are rolling.

Loyola Chicago vs. Kansas State: Ramblers having their way with K-State through first half

Follow is post for live updates from the South regional final.

Follow our coverage of the Florida State-Michigan regional final here.

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ATLANTA — When Porter Moser arrived as Loyola Chicago’s men’s basketball coach in 2011, the roster wasn’t exactly dotted with players destined for the NBA, but he sensed a potential breakthrough with the right additions.

He began recruiting players from the Chicago area, and it eventually paid off with the current roster, which includes a handful of players who have contributed to the Ramblers’ improbable march to Sunday’s South Region final against Kansas State.

Loyola has five players from within 40 miles of the Chicago campus, a target demographic for Moser, a native of the Chicago area. They helped the Ramblers secured their first bid to the NCAA tournament since 1985 by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. In another satisfying turn, that 65-49 victory was over Illinois State, the program that fired Moser in 2011 after consecutive losing seasons.

This past season, Moser was voted MVC coach of the year and is on the verge of becoming the first coach since Shaka Smart in 2011 to lead a No. 11 seed to the Final Four.

In 2006, Jim Larranaga also pulled off an unexpected run when he directed George Mason to the Final Four.

Both Smart and Larranaga wound up taking jobs at high major schools after their memorable jaunts through the NCAA tournament.

“You know, like you know from being there in Chicago, it was a grass-roots rebuild,” Moser said. “But the dynamics changed when you jump to the Missouri Valley, when we jumped. The first year we took a step back, and then that second year in the Valley, we won 24 games, and we won the CBI tournament.

“And we’ve just kind of been building and getting our arrow going up. And I think — I hope we’re an example of, you know, it takes time. I get it. I’ve been there. Fans, administrations, they want it so fast, and it’s tough.”

Schedule: Loyola (31-5) and Kansas State (25-11) will tip off at 6:09 p.m. Saturday on TBS.

How Loyola got here:

  • The Ramblers knocked off No. 6 seed Miami in a first-round thriller, 64-62, inching ahead when Donte Ingram connected on a long three-pointer as time was running out. It was their first NCAA tournament game (and win) since a 1985 trip that ended against Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the Sweet 16. And it made Sister Jean into a national sensation.
  • More late-game dramatics against No. 3 Tennessee: Clayton Custer hit the go-ahead basket with less than four seconds left in a 63-62 win. That victory gave the Ramblers their 30th win, breaking the school record set by the 1963 NCAA championship team. And it put a focus on the Chicago school’s oddball charm.
  • Another game, another big shot: Marques Townes hit a backbreaking three-pointer with less than seven seconds left to help clinch a 69-68 win over No. 7 seed Nevada. That made it three tournament wins by a total of four points. And the Ramblers’ uber-efficient offense means they won’t need divine intervention to reach the Final Four.

How Kansas State got here:

  • The Wildcats led No. 8 Creighton from start to finish in a 69-59 win, despite playing without leading scorer Dean Wade, out with a stress fracture suffered in the Big 12 conference tournament. The win clinched Kansas State’s first trip to the round of 32 since 2012.
  • Playing the unexpected role of heavy favorites, the Wildcats knocked off tournament darlings UMBC, 50-43. UMBC had been the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed. Barry Brown had 18 points as Kansas State advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010.
  • Back in the underdog role, the Wildcats downed eight-time national champion and fifth-seeded Kentucky, 61-58. (Don’t ask about the postgame handshakes.) Kansas State, which hasn’t made a Final Four since 1964, beat Kentucky despite attempting 15 fewer free throws and being out-rebounded, 38-29. And the win set up the first matchup between a No. 9 and a No. 11 seed in NCAA tournament history.

Regular season results:

Loyola easily won the Missouri Valley regular season title, finishing 15-3 in league games (and 25-5 overall), four games clear of anyone else. Guard Clayton Custer was the league’s player of the year; three of the Ramblers’ five losses came when he was out with an injured ankle. Loyola added its first-ever Missouri Valley tournament title, getting a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament. Ben Richardson earned the Valley”s defensive player of the year award, Cameron Krutwig was the freshman of the year, and Moser was the coach of the year.

Kansas State finished fourth in the surging Big 12 conference, with a 21-10 overall record and a 10-8 mark in league games. The Wildcats were 10-4 against league opponents other than Texas Tech and Kansas, which both join Kansas State in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats suffered another loss to Kansas in the Big 12 tournament semifinals — playing without star forward Dean Wade — and earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament. Wade, a 6-foot-10 junior, averaged 16.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in the regular season and became the first Kansas State player to make first-team all-Big 12 in five years. He’s barely played in this event, though.

More NCAA tournament coverage:

Loyola Chicago, Kansas State and Florida State pull off upsets; Michigan’s title hopes soar

Loyola Chicago doesn’t need divine intervention to reach the Final Four

‘I got shivers down my whole body’: Michigan walk-on hits the shot of his life

NCAA broadcasts feed on the tears of young children, and critics have had enough

Jenkins: The secret to buzzer-beaters? It’s all in the (mental) release

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