Loyola squeaks past No. 15 Butler for 7th straight win

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tracy Robinson, one of Loyola's worst foul shooters, gave the Ramblers their first victory over a ranked opponent in 21 years and cost No. 15 Butler a chance for the outright Horizon League championship.

Robinson, who had made just 38 percent of his free throws in the conference and 57 percent for the season, hit five foul shots in the final 36 seconds, and the Ramblers held off the Bulldogs 75-71 on Thursday night.

"It's a rhythm thing," said Robinson.

"I didn't say anything. I just focused on those free throws. Then once I hit the first two, it was just rhythm."

Blake Schilb scored 28 points to lead Loyola.

The victory gave the streaking Ramblers (20-9, 10-5 Horizon League) their seventh straight win, their longest streak since 1992, and assured league-leader Wright State the top seed in the conference tournament next week. Butler (24-5, 12-3) can still tie Wright State for the regular-season title with a victory over Detroit on Saturday but would get the second seed because of a tie-breaker.

Loyola, the preseason conference favorite, already has third place locked up and closes against Illinois-Chicago on Saturday.

"Early this season, I was shooting free throws pretty well, but I seemed to be struggling after that. It's good to get that back down the stretch," said Robinson, who finished with seven points.

Butler came from 12 points down in the second half and took its final lead at 69-67 on two free throws by A.J. Graves. A basket and free throw by Andy Polka put the Ramblers back in front, then Robinson iced the game from the free throw line.

"It went back and forth," Loyola coach Jim Whitesell said. "I was hoping we could have a game like that. We hung in when we lost the lead and made some free throws at the end."

The Ramblers, who had lost 17 straight games in Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1989, took a 38-33 lead at halftime and stretched it to 45-33 on a basket by Schilb, a 3-pointer by Majak Kou and another field goal by Kou at the start of the second period.

That's when Butler began its comeback.

Pete Campbell, who had a 3-pointer disallowed after a review at the end of the first half, hit a trey. Mike Green hit a basket and free throw and Graves scored on a spinning drive to the basket to make it 45-41.

Loyola still led 55-49 before Brandon Crone hit a 3-pointer that started a 12-2 run for the Bulldogs. Butler took its first lead since the first half on two free throws by Crone, then Graves hit a 3 to put Butler up 61-57.

There were seven more lead changes before the basket and free throw by Polka made it 70-69 and Robinson got the final five points from the foul line.

Kou added 13 points for the Ramblers, who beat a ranked opponent for the first time since a 1-point win over Illinois in 1986.

"This is a tough one," Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. "There was a lot on the line. ... Loyola spoiled the party."

Graves led the Bulldogs with 24 points, while Green had 23 and Crone 12.

"We weren't able to finish it," Lickliter said. "They set the tone in the first half and it was catch-up from then on. We couldn't do it, and we made some crucial mistakes at the end."

Hot shooting brought Loyola back from an early five-point deficit, and Schilb scored 13 straight points for the Ramblers in a 4-minute stretch midway through the first half.

A 3-pointer by Schilb gave Loyola its first lead at 22-21, then he was fouled on a 3-point attempt on the next possession and hit all three free throws for a 25-21 lead. Butler pulled to 35-33 with a 3-pointer by Green and had a chance to tie or go ahead, but Graves missed a shot, the Ramblers rebounded and Schilb hit another trey with 7 seconds left in the half.