Loyola-Chicago vs Nevada
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
ATLANTA – Neither Loyola Chicago nor Nevada was supposed to be here, and that was before a miraculous bounce and an historic comeback put them in the Sweet 16. Two of the teams who helped shake up the NCAA Tournament South Region square off Thursday in Atlanta, and one will become an unlikely entry into the Elite Eight.
Nevada lived on the edge last weekend in Nashville, overcoming a 14-point, second-half deficit in an 87-83 overtime win over Texas before rallying from a 22-point hole to knock off No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second-largest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. The seventh-seeded Wolfpack have matched the school record for wins and are in the Sweet 16 for just the second time. Loyola nearly squandered a late lead against No. 3 seed Tennessee on Saturday before Clayton Custer’s jumper bounced around the rim and in for a 63-62 victory. The 11th-seeded Ramblers haven’t lost in nearly two months, winning 12 straight contests since suffering a 69-67 setback at Bradley on Jan. 31 and 19 of their last 20.
TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT LOYOLA (30-5): The Ramblers are disciplined on defense, ranking fifth in the nation in scoring defense (62.2 points) while committing the second-fewest fouls per contest. But they also have plenty of offensive prowess, with five players averaging double digits in points. Custer (13.3 points, 4.2 assists) leads the way, but Aundre Jackson (11.1 points) averaged a team-high 14 points in the first two games of the Tournament.
ABOUT NEVADA (29-7): The Wolfpack are the rare team that can push the pace – they average 83 points – without getting careless, as their 9.6 turnovers per game are the fourth-fewest in the nation. Caleb Martin (18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds), Jordan Caroline (17.7, 8.7) and Cody Martin (13.9, 6.3, 4.7 assists) are the team’s most productive players, but reserve guard Josh Hall (6.8 points) was huge last weekend as he averaged 14.5 points and six rebounds. Kendall Stephens (13.4 points) is a prolific 3-point shooter, hitting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc.
1. Stephens has made a Mountain West-record 126 3-pointers this season and registered at least five on 13 occasions.
2. The Ramblers are 21-0 when leading at halftime and 28-1 when scoring at least 60 points.
3. Caroline has recorded 27 career double-doubles, with the Wolfpack going 25-2 in those games.