Loyola’s magical run through the NCAA Tournament ended against Michigan on Saturday night.
COACH MOSER: Congrats to Michigan. They played a great game. They did what great teams do. They capitalized on that run where we made six turnovers in a row. I want to congratulate them, but I also stand here, sit here, and cannot be more proud of a group than I am of this group.
And when I walked off the floor I was asked what I said to them. And what I said to them was: The more you invest in something, the harder it is to give up. And they didn’t want to end it. And they have so much to be proud of. They changed the perception of a program. They changed the perception of when you say Loyola Chicago, for men’s basketball, they changed that, the perception of it.
They impacted so many lives around not only starting with our campus and then it spread on high character kids playing their tails off unselfishly.
I couldn’t be more proud and saddened that this is over with these kids. And this group, high character and fun group to be around, than I’ve ever been around.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. There was a stretch there I think where you guys had five turnovers in a row in the second half, turned the tide there. What do you think happened there to kind of cause the offense to sputter at that point and turn things?
DONTE INGRAM: I mean, obviously you don’t want to go in those droughts and give teams to go on runs like that. I think this team was trying to be aggressive, trying to make the right plays. I think a couple times we got a bit sped up or a miscue. And it happens sometimes. But unfortunate for us, obviously, to go through that drought. But give credit to Michigan, they played a great game.
BEN RICHARDSON: Yeah, just kind of like he said. We were being aggressive, trying to get downhill. We were kind of struggling to kind of get the domino started, but, yeah, just credit to them.
They were making good plays on the ball and we weren’t capitalizing like we normally do, making good passes, turned it over, had a couple miscues, like he said. But just give credit to Michigan.
Q. Ben, knowing that this is probably the last game you’ll play with Clay, can you talk about the experience you guys have played through the years?
BEN RICHARDSON: Yeah, it’s not going to sink in yet. It hurts to have this be the last one. We wish that it could have ended better. We believe that we could have gone on. But I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of each and every one of these guys, and I’m proud of Clay.
Nothing made me happier than taking the floor with him and compete with him, having him join me in Chicago was a dream come true, and we did a lot of things that people probably didn’t think that we could do. And we proved a lot of people wrong. And I love that guy to death, and we’ll never forget this.
Q. Ben and Donte, when you guys first came, CBI Tournament, played in front of maybe a couple hundred fans and now you end your career here at the NCAA Tournament Final Four in front of 60,000 fans, can you kind of talk about what kind of legacy you guys you hope you’ve left with the program?
DONTE INGRAM: Me and Ben have been in this together since day one. Me and him are the only guys on the team that have seen all this come up from day one, along with Coach and — we’ve come a long way, as you say, from freshman year to maybe 100 on a good day coming to the game to being able to buy into the culture and return things and be able to make people in the city of Chicago proud.
So obviously this is something that will keep us connected for the rest of our lives. I love all these guys like brothers. We’re all family, the players, the coaching staff. And I won’t forget this.
BEN RICHARDSON: I mean, it hurts right now. And we’re disappointed, but we’re going to be able to have a lot of pride in the fact that we made a name for ourselves and kind of let the whole country know what we’re about and worked hard for it. And we earned everything that we got.
And I think we did it the right way. And it’s special to see kind of what stage that we were able to get to. And despite going out this way we’re going to never forget this. And I think a lot of people will remember this run for a long time.
Q. What did Sister Jean tell you anything after the game, what did she tell you, and also what part of Michigan’s game did you find that you struggled with the most, specifically the second half?
AUNDRE JACKSON: Sister Jean just said it was a great season. She was so happy to be on this run with us and we should keep our heads high and be happy with what we accomplished.
Q. What was it about Michigan’s defense and Wagner that made — you guys have responded to everything over the last couple of weeks, what was it about those guys that maybe made it a little too tough this time around?
AUNDRE JACKSON: I guess it was rebounding — at some point it was rebounding, and we were supposed to get more rebounds than we should have. We gave up offensive rebounds which allowed them to get more points. So I’d say rebounding was a big focus.
DONTE INGRAM: Just tagging off what Dre said, it was rebounding. And obviously the turnovers hurt us as well, two categories that we want to be on the better side of in our game goals for each game. And we failed both of those goals. Obviously you wanted things to go different, but those are two things that got to us.
Q. Ben, if you could just speak to the preparation, the coaching, the journey with Porter Moser, your head coach, and how he prepared you for this moment, in front of all of these people, to take it to a tough Michigan team the way you did, to lead by 10 in the second half — you guys played them tougher than any team I saw this year.
BEN RICHARDSON: Yeah, there’s a lot of things that I learned, life lessons from this guy. And I couldn’t be happier to have chosen Loyola and came to Chicago and played for him.
And as far as preparing for Michigan, we prepare just like everybody else. He’s super detail-oriented. And we were ready for everything that they were going to throw at us. Obviously we didn’t execute some of our game plan like we wanted to.
But just the way that we’ve continuously been prepped for every team we face this year and whether it’s film, walk-throughs, you know, practices and then extra walk-throughs just in ballrooms, we’ll set it up wherever we can just to get a competitive advantage.
And that’s something that he’s always been really passionate about, giving us that confidence, because by the time the game comes, we have prepped so much that we have a real confidence we’ll win the game because we know what they’re going to throw at us. And I think the way that he’s done that has really propelled us and helped us in this tournament. Obviously tonight we didn’t execute the game plan well enough. But…
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Similar question to what I asked the players: When you talked about the turnovers and how things started breaking down, was it something that their defense did that caused that? You players talked about being sped up. Could you put a finger on what caused that point where it sort of broke down for you guys?
COACH MOSER: We had that run with the turnovers. And it snowballed on us. And they hit some shots. I don’t think it was any one thing. We tried to space it and cut hard. Their length. They’re really good defensively.
They close the gaps. We always talk about getting the domino going. They closed the gap of opportunity really fast. Like we’ve done a good job all year of spacing it and moving it.
And when there’s an opportunity we kind of are unselfish, need to take advantage of an opportunity when a gap opens up or a breakdown opens up. They were shrinking the gap of opportunity so fast.
I remember one back-cut, I thought it was wide open and all of a sudden they closed to the body with their length and got a deflection.
They really combined — you have a small window for opportunity. And I thought we were doing a lot of good things.
And in that run, you know, we had that many in a row and they capitalized on it. I remember specifically that Wagner got out of a double team on the baseline and threw a bullet. He threw one more to the corner. It was so hard. Ben was trying his hardest in the rotation.
I thought we were rotating so well for so long that it just was a step slower, when you start getting that many turnovers in a row, and it was just — it was a painful run.
And you gotta credit Michigan. They were really shrinking the gap defensively. They were really good defensively.
Q. Can you talk about the impact Ben and Donte have had on this program over the last four years?
COACH MOSER: Yes. I just told them I remember moving them in as freshmen in the summertime into the dorm with their parents there, and they were just two high-energy fun young little guys, I remember moving them in.
And it just goes so fast. And to do what they did to win more games in a four-year span, I don’t know what they won, they won 89 or some games in a four-year span. And to do it the right way. The way they are off the court. I’m telling you — I mean, not even a littering violation with these guys, dropping a Kleenex.
These guys are just so high character. But it’s what they did is very hard to do. They changed — they left an impact on this school, this student body. Look at the ride the student body went on. Look at the ride the alumni went on from coast to coast.
Look at the perception of people looking at what they did and how they did it. I mean, leaving an impact like that, they changed the perception of Loyola. And when you say that word, they impacted it.
And they’re not going to know that right now, because their pain in the locker room — I was proud of them how they held their composure here. And I wouldn’t have cared if they didn’t. But it was as tough a locker room as I’ve seen because they believed they belonged and they believed like they wanted to advance.
And anytime in life when you invest so much into something, it’s hard to let it go. And those two have invested everything. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do, everything. And I’m a better person and a better coach for coaching those guys.
Q. With the future of the program, and Cameron Krutwig was in the locker room saying the seniors kind of started this and there’s more to be done with this program, where do you think this takes, expectations, and what does this season do for you guys basketball-wise beyond perception?
COACH MOSER: I’ve talked a lot about culture and trying to develop a culture of the way we do things. And I hugged Krutwig and all those guys, and I just said you guys are the keepers of the culture now. I mean, you guys have got to be the keepers of this.
What we’re doing, I hugged Christian Negron and said: Your offseason starts when we get back. Lucas, I talked to Lucas about Ben — people joke in the locker room that Lucas is Ben’s little prodigy — and what Ben does.
You want it to sustain — you want it to sustain with the guys. The guys who didn’t get as many minutes, the guys that did, the Marques Townes, the Claytons, the Lucas and Krutwigs, those guys have to be the keepers of the culture. And do things a certain way. And that’s the way we’re going to do them.
Q. You talked about the dilemma of guarding Moe Wagner, and did he kind of cause that problem especially like — the first half he was offensive rebounding. Seemed like the second half he was kind of moving out and hitting some shots on the outside.
COACH MOSER: I was really — I liked a lot of things we were doing defensively on him. I liked it. I didn’t look at it and say what we were doing — what we were worried about.
What happened was he got some offensive rebounds. And that was some of the things you give up with our size and he got down on the block.
He got open late. He hit that one 3 that — it was tough. We were not trying to be off him, we were off him two arm lengths. And we shouldn’t have been off him two arm lengths. And he hit a deep bomb and he made a really nice pass.
But I thought we did some — I would look at the tape, but I was really pleased with some of the things we were doing based on our game plan against him, with it. I think a lot of those points were off offensive rebounds in the first half, then he got free for those too.
We were off — a really good player. What he is, he’s a competitor. He competes and he’s emotional and passionate. And I like guys like that.
Q. What a ride. A variation of what I said to Ben and the preparation of this team, their belief in you and what you’re doing, their commitment to that. But then there’s your belief in them, you beat an ACC team, an SEC champion, a Mountain West champion, a Big 12 team, you went toe to toe with the Big Ten champion on the biggest stage there is. At what point did you have that faith and belief they were capable of this, and what tipped you off to that?
COACH MOSER: This is something that’s been developing over the past couple of years developing the culture of things, it’s the little things that separate us. We don’t have to be the most talented team, but I think we’re together. But just watching this team grow. The unselfishness of this team, the buy-in. Ben talked about the attention to detail. It’s a lot.
And I’ve never seen — the guys are really receptive to a competitive advantage. And they bought in. They bought in. And I thank them for that because as coaches, the buy-in attitudinally, the buy-in effortwise, off the rails with this group. And that’s never — that’s where the direction’s been going. We just have been getting better and better players and winning kids.
But, I tell ya, there’s a ton of love in this locker room and it’s very hard to — it’s very hard to end it but there’s no end.
Like I told these guys, I said we’re going to be connected for life. I tell them in the recruiting process, you’re not making a four-year commitment at Loyola to play for us, you’re making a lifetime relationship. And that’s what we have. That’s what these guys have. It’s a lifetime relationship. And it’s not a four-year commitment. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of that that they used the word “family” all the time. You hear that word all the time with this group. I love that. Means a lot to me.