Loyola holds off Xavier, 91-80

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NEW ORLEANS – The Loyola University New Orleans men’s basketball had to wait for its season-opener, but it was worth it for the Wolf Pack. Loyola faced its crosstown rival Xavier Saturday in The Den, and the Pack walked away with a hard-fought 91-80 win over the Gold Rush.

Neither team could grab a lead bigger than one possession through the first six and a half minutes of the game, as the lead changed three times with three ties. Terry Smith Jr. recorded Loyola’s first bucket of the season, then Myles Burns hit a 3-pointer to tie the game 5-5. A pair of Zach Wrightsil buckets and two free throws from Burns pushed Loyola’s lead to 14-10 a few minutes later.

While the Wolf Pack led for the rest of the game, the Gold Rush made it a one-possession game six times before Loyola extended the lead to 10 points by halftime. The Pack had five players with at least six points after the first 20 minutes, too, and Loyola was able to fend off every Xavier run late in the first half.

Terry Smith Jr., Matt Maturah, Eddie Burgess and Burns combined for Loyola’s final 15 points in the half to take a 43-33 lead into halftime.

Xavier came roaring back in the second half, though. The Gold Rush used a 14-1 over a two-and-a-half-minute span to cut the Wolf Pack’s lead to 59-58 with 11:28 to play. Like the first half, however, Loyola made plays when it had to hold off Xaiver.

At the 10:15 mark, Tensley Aldridge picked up a loose ball and scored to make it a 3-point lead, then Burgess hit a put-back to extend the lead to 66-60 a couple minutes later. With 7:56 to play, Xavier couldn’t handle a rebound after a missed free throw, and Burgess turned that into two more points for the Pack.

Xavier got five quick points with more than six minutes left in the game, then Aldridge made two free throws and Burns converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to give Loyola a 79-68 lead with 3:30 left. A minute later, Wrightsil earned a rebound and scored to extend the lead back to 11, then the junior put the game away with another put-back after a missed Loyola free throw to give the Wolf Pack an 86-76 lead with a minute left.

Loyola is back in action Monday, Nov. 16, at LSU Alexandria.

“Playing the No. 20 team in the country for our first game is not an ideal situation. Xavier is super talented and scrappy and they would not go away. I thought they did a really nice job on the glass, particularly on the offensive glass. Their press gave us some trouble, which is great because it gives us something to work on. We’ll be better on the glass going forward, we’ll handle the press going forward, and we’ll clean up the turnovers. We got really good minutes from Eddie Burgess. He did a nice job inside and finished around the basket.”

Eddie Burgess led the way in scoring with 16 points and six boards. Myles Burns (15), Zach Wrightsil (13), and Matt Maturah (12) also hit double figures.

Burns added a team-high nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal. With this performance, he moved into ninth place in Loyola career rebounds, now with a total of 567.

Wrightsil’s eight rebounds moved him right behind Burns into 10th place on the all-time rebounds list with a tally of 562.

Loyola’s 28 made free throws were the most since the team made 31 against SUNO on Nov. 12, 2019.

You can keep up with the Pack by following Wolf Pack Athletics on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoyolaWolfPack, Twitter and Instagram @LoyolaWolfPack, and by checking out our website at LoyolaWolfPack.com.

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