(New Orleans, La.) A week ago, the Loyola University men’s basketball team made history by becoming just the third Wolf Pack men’s squad to qualify for the NAIA DI National Championship in program history, ending a 71-year drought between tournament appearances.
Loyola was awarded for its accomplish by having to face No. 2 and top-seeded William Penn University in the first round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship held at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
Despite trailing by just six points at halftime, William Penn’s size and experience proved too much for the Wolf Pack in the end. Powered by a dominating 24 points and 21 rebounds by the HAAC Player of the Year Torren Jones, the No. 1 Statemen outscored Loyola 58-42 in the second half to grab the 100-78 victory in the opening round. With the win, William Penn advances to the second round for the second-straight season and will face No. 4 seed Georgetown (Ky.) on Friday at 2:15 p.m.
Following the loss, Loyola ends the 2016-17 campaign at 22-10 overall.
The first minute of the match up saw Johnny Griffin Jr. tie up the ballgame at 2-2 on a driving layup to the basket for the score.
Both teams would remain tied over the next 4 minutes of play until a three pointer by Jalen Gray gave Loyola its first lead of the contest at 11-8 with 16:20 to go in the opening frame.
Field goals by Torren Jones and Charles Knowles put the Statesmen back on top 12-11 over the next 60 seconds. William Penn managed to take a three-point lead at 14-11 until a field goal by Trey LaForge plus the foul gave the Wolf Pack the chance to knot the game once again at the 14:40 mark of the opening half.
The free throw by LaForge would tie the game at 14-14, but Jones once again had the response for the Statesmen with a layup in the paint to give them the lead at 16-14 with 13:48 to play until halftime.
William Penn would lead by as many as seven in the first half and went into the locker room with a six point lead at 42-36.
Loyola played a very competitively first half against the No. 2 team in the NAIA shooting 14-of-37 (37.8%) from the field and 3-of-11 (27.2%) from the three-point line. The team was outrebounded by the Statesman 32-20 in the opening 20 minutes of action.
Gray led all scorers with 12 points in the first half. LaForge added 10 points off the bench on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor.
William Penn scored the first five points of the second half to go on top 47-36 with 18:18 to play in the final period.
Back-to-back field goals by Gray cut the lead to nine at 49-40 over the next minute of action but a 10-0 run by William Penn extended the lead 59-40 with 16:25 to play in the contest.
Loyola responded with a 10-2 spurt highlighted by back-to-back three pointers by Tre’von Jasmine to trim the lead to 11 at 61-50 with 14:26 to go in the ballgame.
But that would be as close as the Wolf Pack would come before the Statesman pulled away on a 39-28 run over the final 14 minutes of play.
Despite a slow start, William Penn dominated the second half, shooting 23-of-41 (.561) from the field on the way to a 58-point performance after intermission.
Loyola shot 28-of-67 (41.8%) from the field and 8-of-21 (38.1%) from beyond the arc in the game. The team was outplayed on the glass by a wide margin of 56-31.
Gray led the team with 20 points and dished out four assists in the final game of his career with the Wolf Pack. Jasmine chipped in 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting off the bench in a valiant effort against the Statesman.
Entering the game averaging 14.5 points per game each, Johnny Griffin Jr. and Nick Parker were held to just nine points each on Wednesday evening.