No. 2 Loyola MBB beats No.12 USAO in tournament championship

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The second-ranked Wolf Pack earned another marquee victory Wednesday, defeating No. 12 Science and Arts of Oklahoma in the championship of the Battle at the Beach Gulf Bracket

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – For the second time in three seasons, the Loyola Wolf Pack men’s basketball has matched the best start to a season in the program’s history after defeating No. 12 Science and Arts of Oklahoma 81-64 Wednesday.

The win made the No. 2 Wolf Pack 10-0 overall this season, claiming the Gulf Bracket title of the Battle at the Beach tournament, and it’s the third time in school history Loyola men’s basketball has started a campaign with 10 straight victories (1928-29; 2019-20).

After six games away from New Orleans in nine days, the Wolf Pack will finally be back in uptown when they host Dillard Tuesday, Nov. 30, at Tulane’s Fogelman Arena in Devlin Fieldhouse. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Loyola and Science and Arts went back-and-forth in the early going, as the lead changed five times through the first six minutes. Effort on the offensive glass by Zach Muller led to a Brandon Davis score to take an early 4-3 lead, then Zach Wrightsil grabbed an offensive board and dunked it all in one motion to go up 8-7. Davis scored the next five points, a driving lay-up and a 3-pointer, and Andrew Fava sank his first 3 of the game to help extend the advantage to 16-7. Milan Mejia got a triple to fall, too, giving the Pack a 14-0 run to take the 20-7 lead halfway through the first half.

The Drovers cut Loyola’s lead down to six, 24-18, with a little more than five minutes until the break, but six points by Jalen Galloway over a two-minute span put the Pack back up by 10, 32-22. Davis and Wrightsil each scored down the stretch to help give Loyola the 37-27 lead after 20 minutes of play.

The Wolf Pack came out in the second half on fire, scoring the game’s first nine points in three minutes to push the score to 46-27. Wrightsil scored twice in those opening minutes and Galloway hit a 3-pointer as well before the Drovers could get on the board. Wrightsil scored consecutive shots to make it a 19-point lead, 52-33, with 13:40 left to play, and after USAO made it a 14-point game, Smith blocked a shot and raced down the floor for the score to put the score at 62-46 with eight and a half minutes on the clock.

Loyola kept the sizable lead, 67-50, thanks to another 3-pointer from Fava and back-to-back scores by Smith with six minutes to play, then Smith added another bucket to keep it a 17-point lead, 70-53, with four minutes remaining. From there, each team scored 11 points to bring the game to its final, 81-64.
Pack Facts
• Loyola’s 10-0 overall record matches the best start in the program’s history, and it’s been done twice by other Wolf Pack men’s basketball teams (1928-29 and 2019-20).
• Zach Wrightsil led the Wolf Pack with 24 points and 21 rebounds, his second double-double of the season. His 21 boards were good enough for a new career-high for the senior, while his 24 points earned Wrightsil a new season-high.
• Wrightsil moved up in Loyola record books in three career categories (points, steals and assists) as well. He’s now fifth all-time with 1,607 career points, eighth all-time with 134 career steals, and he’s tied for third all-time with 379 career assists.
• Terry Smith Jr. scored 14 points in Wednesday’s contest, giving him 1,429 for his career. That moved him up a couple of spots in the Loyola record books to 11th all-time in career points.
• The Wolf Pack recorded 13 steals Wednesday, and they’ve had double-digit steals in nine of the 10 games this season.
• Loyola’s five blocks are the third-most for the team this season, and they’ve notched at least that many in five of the 10 games.

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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