INDIANAPOLIS – Picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12, Oregon State instead might be the last one standing.
Led by unflappable guard Ethan Thompson, whose 20 points included a pair of clinching foul shots with 35 seconds left, the No. 12 seed Beavers and their brilliant defense shut down eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago in a 65-58 victory on Saturday that sent their long-suffering program into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
It's Oregon State's first regional final since 1982 — one that was later vacated by the NCAA — and sets up a showdown with second-seeded Houston or No. 10 seed Syracuse on Monday night for a spot in its first Final Four since 1963.
“They just want to keep riding the wave,” said Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle, whose hungry bunch of underdogs have matched Missouri in 2002 as the lowest-seeded teams to advance past the Sweet 16.
“We did use the fact we were picked 12th in the Pac-12 this year," Tinkle added, “but we haven't made a big deal about the 12th seed. I don't want to throw too much at them. They'll see it. We just have to keep our feet on the ground.”
That's getting harder to do with each passing day.
Not even the fervent prayers of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt could help Loyola deal with the Beavers (20-12) and the constantly changing defenses that Tinkle rolled out. The Ramblers (26-5), who played with such poise and perfection in toppling top-seeded Illinois, wound up shooting 33% from the field and 5 of 23 from beyond the arc.
All-America forward Cameron Krutwig led Loyola with 14 points. Lucas Williamson and Braden Norris added 10 apiece, though both of them missed 3-pointers in the closing minutes as Loyola tried to mount a comeback.