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Sister Jean’s World

If you didn’t know that before last night, you do now.

March 23, 2018 - 11:53 am
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Breaking news: this is Sister Jean’s world and the rest of us are just living in it. And if you didn’t know that before last night, you do now. Because as good Porter Moser, Clayton Custer, and the rest of the Loyola Ramblers are, we know who’s really calling the shots there – it’s the 98-year-old nun turned international superstar.

How else do you explain Loyola going to the Elite Eight after beating Nevada 69-68? How else do you explain Aundre Jackson hitting a go-ahead three with less than three minutes left after he hadn’t hit one in a month? How else do you explain Marques Townes scoring 15 points in the first two games, then scoring 18 last night, including an absolute dagger three with 6.3 seconds left to go up four? How else do you explain the fact that the Loyola of Chicago Ramblers are one win away from the Final Freaking Four?

Sister Jean. That’s it. Well, Sister Jean and the fact that these Ramblers are brass as hell. There’s no other way to put it. Three tournament wins by a total of four points. They were down 12 in the first half last night, then went on a run and got up 12 in the second half, only to see Nevada do what Nevada had done to Texas and Cincinnati before them.

The Wolfpack are relentless. They just keep coming at you and they will wear you down. I’ve said it time and time again; they are so much a reflection of their head coach, so much pride, passion, and fire. And it was all on display last night as they clawed their way back into the game.

But, and here’s something nobody ever thought they’d say, Loyola isn’t Texas and Loyola isn’t Cincinnati. The Ramblers were rocked, but the Ramblers didn’t collapse. They manned up. They buckled down. And they got huge shots when they needed them.

And many of those big shots came after Sister Jean came down from the stands and over near the bench with just over three minutes to go in a tie game. As the legend of Sister Jean goes, we start getting Sister Jean facts that sound like rip-offs of Chuck Norris facts. Like this one from Arizona Cardinals media relations legend Mark Dalton: Loyola’s Sister Jean was on born August 21, 1919. The NFL was formed on August 20, 1920.

Sister Jean is older than the NFL. And maybe more popular.

Another fact: according to Pat Forde, she has two athletic department staffers helping with her media requests. Sister Jean has an entourage and I love it. But even Sister Jean said last night was tough: “It was getting pretty bad. I thought I might have to resort to my nitro (nitroglycerin), but I didn’t have to do that.” It’s a good thing, too. Because if Sister Jean goes nitro, Nevada never stands a chance.

As soon as the horn sounded, Loyola knew they were going to be facing Wildcats of some kind in the Elite Eight, but I don’t think anyone really thought they’d be facing the Kansas State kind. But they are. Because K-State turned in a performance every bit as brass as Loyola’s. This group, regarded as maybe the worst of the remaining 16 teams, going up against Kentucky in Catlanta and they didn’t show an ounce of fear. They jumped out to an early lead, Kentucky went on a run, they went on a run of their own, and they just kept trading runs, but Bruce Weber’s crew never let Kentucky get comfortable or get control.

Before the tournament, John Calipari was pointing out how nasty the South Region was. Then when the top four teams were cleaned out, and everyone said Kentucky would roll to the Final Four, he told his guys not to drink the poison. And I’m not going to say they drank the poison last night, because they just ran into beast in K-State. But that doesn’t mean that loss isn’t going to sting for a long time.

Kentucky had their chances, especially from the foul line where they missed 14 attempts. In a 3-point game, that will kill you. P.J. Washington in particular had a nightmare, missing 12 of them. A brutal night for a guy who’d been a much better free throw shooter during the season. But I’m not going to bash him because there’s no way they’re even in that game without him going for 18 and 15.

No, last night was much more about what Kansas State did than what Kentucky didn’t do. Going into this tournament, nobody knew much about this K-State team. But you do now. You know how tough they are defensively, how relentless they are offensively, and how they do not back down.

And Kansas State is doing all of this without their best player. They’re in the Elite Eight and Dean Wade has barely taken off his warmups. No problem. Just like it was no problem when three players fouled out last night. They just keep doing what they do.

Now we get Elite Eight between two teams who really know who they are and what they’re about. And one of them is forty minutes away from the Final Four. To quote Bartholomew Edward Scott, “CAN’T WAIT.”