Rambling to the Final Four: Clayton Custer = Victories for Loyola in 2018

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 24: Ben Richardson #14 of the Loyola Ramblers celebrates after defeating Kansas State Wildcats during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 24, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Loyola defeated Kansas State 78-62. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO – To find one of the greatest statistics from this memorable run for Loyola men’s basketball, take a look at the game log of the 2018 Larry Bird Award winner.

It’s pretty impressive. It shows just how much Clayton Custer means to this particular group, and why he was certainly worthy of the aforementioned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year.

Before their National Semifinal game with Michigan on Saturday in the Final Four, the Ramblers have played 37 games. Custer has appeared in 32 of them – missing a stretch of five games early in the conference season with an ankle injury – and Loyola hasn’t lost much during those games he’s played.

Try two. Just two. In the other 30 games, the Ramblers have won with Custer in the lineup.

30-2. Impressive.

“Clay, he makes everything on us a lot easier, just the way he handles the point guard position,” said Marques Townes of Custer. “For any player that plays a point guard, his job is to make the job easier for the rest of the team. He does a really good job at that.”

Especially after his injury that occurred during Loyola’s upset win over then No. 5 Florida on December 6th. Loyola lost three of the next five games they played without Custer – including two games in the Missouri Valley Conference – but after that they were good to go.

Since his return on January 7th in a win at Northern Iowa, the Ramblers are 22-1 with Custer in the lineup. The only loss in that stretch came at Bradley on January 31st, and since then the Ramblers of reeled off 14-straight wins, including seven-straight in tournament play.

Meanwhile Custer averaged a team-high 13.2 points per game while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and also dishing out 4.2 assists per game. He’s scored in the double-digits in there of the four NCAA Tournament wins and hit the now famous game-winning shot against Tennessee in the Second Round to send Loyola to the Sweet 16.

“When he came back, it really brought that confidence back and that offensive ability that we’ve had and our ability to be unselfish. And he really starts all that stuff,” said fellow starting guard Ben Richardson of Custer. “He makes so many things happen with his ability to get downhill, get the domino started and being an unselfish player and put pressure on the defense.

“Since he came back, it’s shown with all the success we’ve had.”

A lot of it, in fact.