Loyola earns first NAIA Tournament win since 1946

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Ben Fields

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the first time since 1946, the No. 24 Loyola University New Orleans men’s basketball team is moving on at the NAIA National Championship tournament, as they took down No. 9 Missouri Baptist 68-67 Wednesday evening at Municipal Auditorium.

Myles Burns wasted no time scoring the first points of the game for the sixth-seeded Wolf Pack (22-11), cutting through the middle of the paint for a quick layup to put the Pack up 2-0 just 10 seconds in. The game would slow down, however, with the first half featuring seven ties and nine lead changes, while neither team led by more than five points. Ethan Turner led the way in the opening period, putting up 17 points on five made three-pointers to lead all scorers at the half, but the third-seeded Spartans (28-5) would hold a 42-39 advantage at the break.

Missouri Baptist opened the second half building upon their lead, going in front by as many as nine points at 54-45 with a little over 13 minutes remaining. Tre’Von Jasmine then hit a crucial triple that sparked a 10-1 Wolf Pack run, which was capped off by six-straight points on hard-fought buckets from Terry Smith Jr.

The Pack took their first lead of the half on a steal and slam from Burns, the SSAC Defensive Player of the Year, followed by a tough inside basket from Zach Wrightsil to push it to 62-58. The Spartans retook the lead on back-to-back treys, but Burns swiped another ball, finishing on a eurostep to once again put Loyola back in front 65-64 with 55 seconds remaining.

With 44 seconds left the Spartans hit another three-pointer, but Benjamin Fields answered with a clutch stepback make from long range, giving the Wolf Pack a 68-67 advantage with 29 seconds on the clock. Loyola’s defense swarmed the court on the final Missouri Baptist possession, forcing a close miss in the final seconds to seal the upset victory.

The Pack will take on the winner of No. 8 Wayland Baptist and Arizona Christian in the round of 16 on Friday, March 22 at 4 p.m. CT.

WOLF PACK HEAD COACH STACY HOLLOWELL
“Unbelievable game, coach Brock did an amazing job with that group. Any team that goes 28-4 does something special. They have unselfish kids and it’s a group of winners on that team. We got messages wishing us good luck, and we really needed it, luckily we got a little bit of that tonight. Kai Woodfall is an unbelievable shooter and Pablo did a nice job in the post. The plays that they run are really hard to guard with what we do. Credit to them, just an unbelievable game, unbelievable team in Missouri Baptist, but we’re just happy to come out with the win.”

PACK FACTS

This is the first win at any national tournament for the Wolf Pack since the 1946 NAIA Championship when Loyola reached the Final Four.

Ethan Turner was on fire in the first half, sinking five three-pointers before the halftime buzzer.

The senior now has 82 makes from deep this season, the fifth-most in a single year with the Pack.

Myles Burns nearly registered a double-double, scoring 16 points while grabbing nine rebounds.

The school’s record holder for steals in a season made his presence felt on defense, collecting five swipes.

Zach Wrightsil added 16 as well for the Pack, while contributing four rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

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