The 12th-seeded Oregon State Beavers are Elite Eight-bound after beating the No. 8 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 65-58 in the Sweet 16 of the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Officially, the Beavers are heading to the Elite Eight for the seventh time in program history and the first time since 1966, as their trip to the Elite Eight in 1982 was vacated because of NCAA sanctions.
Oregon State gutted out a defensive battle by holding Loyola to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and 21.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc while also forcing eight turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Beavers shot 41.2 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from long range in the victory, which was the Pac-12 tournament winners' sixth in a row.
Ethan Thompson, G, OSU: 22 PTS on 6/13 FG, 4 REB, 4 AST
Warith Alatishe, F, OSU: 10 PTS on 4/8 FG, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL
Cameron Krutwig, C, LUC: 14 PTS on 6/12 FG, 10 REB, 4 AST
Lucas Williamson, G, LUC: 10 PTS on 3/11 FG, 7 REB, 3 AST
Thompson Stars Offensively in Beavs' Win
Saturday's game was primarily about locking down the opposition defensively, but one player did stand out on the offensive end in Oregon State senior guard Ethan Thompson.
Thompson led all scorers with 22 points and was the Beavers' go-to guy whenever they needed a big basket.
He even showed off his playmaking skills, including this beautiful cross-court pass, which led to a three-pointer by Tariq Silver in the opening half:
Thompson got the job done on defense as well, with this charge helping spur the Beavers to an 11-0 run to close the first half and enter the locker room up by eight:
He also made the pass that led to Warith Alatishe's buzzer-beating layup at the end of the first half:
The Los Angeles native had 10 of Oregon State's 24 points at halftime and was receiving plenty of praise from those watching a game that didn't have a ton of offensive highlights.
Among those who spoke highly of Thompson were Alex Crawford of KOCI, Julian Mininsohn of KEZI and Bobby Reagan of Barstool Sports:
Thompson continued to show off his impressive skill set in the second half, and he was the biggest problem for Loyola-Chicago's normally suffocating defense.
He caught the Ramblers napping with just under 13 minutes remaining in regulation, catching a long pass over the shoulder and slamming home an emphatic dunk to extend the Oregon State lead to 13:
Things did tighten up after that as Loyola started making more field goals down the stretch, but the Beavs continued to lean on their star.
Thompson was unquestionably the biggest difference-maker for either team Saturday, and he is primarily why Oregon State is moving on to the Elite Eight.
If Thompson continues playing at the level he did against Loyola, Oregon State may have a legitimate chance to go the distance, which is something nobody expected as recently as a few weeks ago.
Loyola Loses at Own Game in Defensive Struggle
Loyola-Chicago's modus operandi is shutting down the opposition defensively and dominating in the half-court offensively, but neither thing happened for long stretches Saturday.
After the Ramblers imposed their will on top-seeded Illinois in the second round of the NCAA tournament, it initially looked like they would be able to do the same against Oregon State.
Loyola seized a 9-3 lead and Round of 32 hero Cameron Krutwig looked good early as well, going to work in the paint:
The Ramblers led 16-13 with just five minutes remaining in the first half, but things went south in a hurry.
As noted by Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, Oregon State went on an 11-0 run to end the half and shut Loyola down on the defensive end during that stint:
With neither team shooting well from the field, The Action Network provided a humorous parody of the game on Twitter:
Most of Loyola's damage was done at the free-throw line in the first half, as the Ramblers had more turnovers (five) than field goals made (four). Their 16 points were also a season low in any half.
Loyola struggled against Oregon State's zone, but the Ramblers started to come to life and hit shots in the second half.
Most notably, Lucas Williamson, who struggled from the field, finally canned a three-pointer with about eight minutes left to bring Loyola within six:
The Ramblers cut the deficit to as few as three points with 3:31 to go, much to the delight of team chaplain and superfan Sister Jean:
Loyola had opportunities to tie the game or take the lead, but its vaunted defense couldn't stop the Beavers in big moments down the stretch.
A trifecta by Jarod Lucas with 1:12 remaining extended the Oregon State lead from four to seven and essentially put the game out of reach, leaving the Ramblers to wonder what could have been had they gotten some timely stops and performed better offensively in the first half.
On the heels of their big win Saturday, the No. 12 Beavers will face either the No. 2 Houston Cougars or No. 11 Syracuse Orange on Monday.