The highly anticipated battle between Illinois and Loyola Chicago was always going to come down to the big man matchup: The Illini's towering 7-footer Kofi Cockburn vs. the Ramblers' rounder, stranger senior Cameron Krutwig. When the dust cleared, it was the mid-major kid with the memorable facial hair who could claim a unanimous-decision victory, and it was Loyola who had pulled off the upset in convincing fashion, 71-58.
Some late trips to the foul line gave Cockburn the edge in points over Krutwig, 21 to 19, but Krutwig's double-double with five assists and three steals more fully captures the completeness with which he helped the Ramblers to the Sweet 16. In the game's final stretch, Cockburn looked noticeably gassed in transition, while the harmonica player from Algonquin, Ill. seemingly made good plays on every possession, on both ends of the floor. Particularly as Illinois tried to claw back with under 10 minutes to play, North Suburbs Jokic found a diverse range of ways to improve his team's chances. Here's a brief sampling:
Krutwig saved the best for last, though, with Loyola up seven with 90 seconds to play. Krutwig got fouled, made the first free throw, missed the second, caught the tip back, and helped drain the clock further down. Loyola didn't end up scoring, but when the ball changed hands, an enormous defensive play from the big man all but clinched the Ramblers' continued survival.
"I don't want to say he's athletic," commented Bill Raftery. "But goodness does he know how to play basketball."
I've also decided that I unironically love the mustache now. Make fun of me all you want, but Krutwig and Loyola are moving on all the same.