ATLANTA — Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt knew she was going have to rip up one of the two N.C.A.A tournament brackets she filled out after her beloved Loyola-Chicago Ramblers faced Nevada here Thursday. Before Sister Jean, the 98-year-old nun and team chaplain, surged to Kardashian-level fame on social media — albeit chaste and devout — she served both as Loyola’s divine inspiration and as a scout who crafted detailed basketball reports that even Mike Krzyzewski would love.
Loyola’s 69-68 victory over Nevada here on Thursday ensured that Sister Jean would get to rip up the right bracket, which actually was the wrong one. See, the Mother Teresa side of Sister Jean’s personality moved her to slot her beloved Ramblers into the national title game. She called it her Cinderella bracket, and now, after the No. 11-seeded Ramblers upset No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee and then Nevada, Sister Jean and her dreams are very much alive.
But, alas, she could not dismiss the other side of her soul, that of the basketball lifer. So Sister Jean hedged: She filled out another bracket with the Ramblers being eliminated here, in the semifinals of the South Regional.
In the first half, the No. 7-seeded Wolf Pack (29-7) looked every bit the powerhouse that had erased a 22-point deficit to stun No. 2-seeded Cincinnati, 75-73, to reach the round of 16. It was a 20-minute chess match punctuated by Loyola fast breaks that were rarely finished. Nevada blocked five of Loyola’s shots, all at point blank range, as the Wolf Pack took a 12-point lead late in the half.
There was reason, however, for the Wolf Pack to worry even then.
Nevada had struggled to score from long range, shooting just 2 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc and were 9 of 27 from the field. The Ramblers did not quit, found their scoring touch and put together a 12-0 run to take 28-24 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Wolf Pack doubled down on a smothering defense that forced Loyola into three shot-clock violations and another half-dozen hurried, off-balance attempts. With 3 minutes 18 seconds left, Nevada tied the score at 59-59 when Cody Martin floated through the lane for a soaring layup.
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