Lucas Williamson helped Loyola Chicago bring down No. 1 seed Illinois, the big-time basketball school in his home state. The Ramblers’ senior watchman defeated Ayo Dosunmu, the Illini All-American guard and his childhood companion and partner.
Loyola is back in the Sweet 16 of the 2021 NCAA competition, three years after its mysterious Final Four run, and doesn’t have another game for at least four days. Celebration time, right? Not in the NCAA bubble.
In the wake of leaving Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Williamson and his partners spent the rest of Sunday in their downtown hotel, which they haven’t left other than for practices or games, since showing up in Indianapolis.
“Every time you leave your hotel room, you’ve got to have a mask,” Williamson told ESPN on Sunday. “You’ve got to have your credentials on because if you don’t, then you’re not part of this bubble.”
Williamson and his colleagues urgently need to stay in the bubble, in a perfect world for an additional fourteen days, as they look for another Final Four appearance, and possibly more.
“We could go out and party, but at the end of the day, we’re not done yet,” Williamson said. “We’re looking forward to our Sweet 16 matchup. We know we’re not done yet, and we’re just getting started. If we’re serious about our goals and dreams and aspirations, this is the sacrifice that you have to make.”
Williamson’s bubble celebration Sunday included his phone, as he hadn’t began reacting to messages. He actually felt the effect of Loyola’s 71-58 success, saying, “It’s crazy, it’s insane. We were trending on Twitter, ESPN SportsCenter, you name it.”
After the game, Loyola mentor Porter Moser urged his players to stay on the court, where they danced and remained behind Moser and center Cameron Krutwig for their CBS interviews. Moser saw players leave the court rapidly after the first-round win against Georgia Tech, and needed Sunday to appear as something else.
“I wanted them to stay out and enjoy it because that etches in your memory, that moment right there,” Moser said, “feeling all the work you’ve put in, all the effort you do to stay together, sacrifices you make, especially this year.”
Moser and Loyola’s senior leaders, Williamson and Krutwig, get point of view as members the first Final Four push. There was no COVID-19 at that point, and wins could be praised with family, companions and fans.
However, the drive to return to the game’s greatest stage hasn’t changed, in any event, during an unusual competition in a weird time.
“I was a part of the run my freshman year,” Williamson said. “I kept trying to tell guys, ‘Don’t fall into the trap because this feels nice and this might be the best feeling that we’ve all felt in a long while. But I promise you it gets better.’ I said, ‘Guys, I’ll never lie to you. It gets better.’ And then they’re like, ‘I bet you it does.’
“We’re going to make that sacrifice.”