EditorsNote: Adds next opponent, other corrections
Senior guard Ben Richardson scored a season-high 23 points as Loyola-Chicago pummeled Kansas State, 78-62, Saturday in the South Regional final of the NCAA Tournament at Atlanta, Ga.
The 11th-seeded Ramblers (32-5), making their first tournament appearance since 1985, advanced to the Final Four for just the second time and will face West Region victor Michigan on March 31 in San Antonio. Their previous appearance resulted in an NCAA title in 1963, the only Division I basketball championship ever captured by an Illinois school.
After shooting 53.1 percent in the previous two rounds, Loyola-Chicago came out blistering. It quickly gained control against the ninth-seeded Wildcats (25-12), who tumbled for the seventh straight time in a regional final since last reaching the Final Four in 1964.
Loyola-Chicago, which shot a scorching 57.4 percent from the floor, expanded its advantage to 20-plus points barely six minutes into the second half, when the Ramblers missed just one of their first 10 shots. The Missouri Valley champions led by as much as 23 points after winning their three previous games by a combined four points.
Richardson, who is from Overland Park, Kan., made a career-high six 3-pointers on seven attempts.
Junior guard Marques Townes added 13 points and senior forward Donte Ingram chipped in 12 for Loyola-Chicago. Freshman center Cameron Krutwig was tough inside, adding nine points and seven rebounds as the Ramblers managed a 36-28 edge on the glass.
Sophomore forward Xavier Sneed recorded 16 points and six rebounds to lead Kansas State, which again played without its leading scorer and rebounder, All-Big 12 forward Dean Wade. The 6-foot-10 junior, nursing an injured foot, played just eight minutes in the tournament, all in the first half of the Wildcats’ Sweet 16 victory against Kentucky.
Junior guards Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes added 14 and 13 points, respectively, but Kansas State shot just 34.8 percent and could not capitalize on a 28-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
Loyola-Chicago made 11 of its first 14 shots, including nine straight during a 21-9 spurt to gain control early before leading by its biggest margin of the first half, 36-24, at the break. The Ramblers before improved to 23-0 this season when leading at halftime.
Richardson scored 11 first-half points to pace the Ramblers. Brown countered with nine first-half points for the Wildcats, who shot 37 percent.
—Field Level Media