NAIA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: No. 8 seed Wolf Pack vs. No. 1 seed William Penn

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2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship
Municipal Auditorium | Kansas City, Mo.
March 15-21, 2017

No. 1 William Penn (Iowa) (30-3) vs. No. 8 Loyola University New Orleans (22-9) | March 15 | 8:00 PM

The NAIA Network – the association’s official video streaming home – will broadcast the first 30 games leading up to the championship final on ESPN3. The video platform, powered by Stretch Internet, allows users access to live video, statistics, and social interaction on a number of devices, including mobile. Single day passes can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament package is available at $29.95. Live updates will also be available on the official Twitter feed of Loyola Athletics (@loyolawolfpack) and on the new Loyola Wolf Pack app.

The No. 8-seed Wolf Pack returns to the NAIA Division I National Championship for the first time since 1946.
Loyola’s 71-year drought between DI tournament appearances is the largest by any team in this year’s tournament.
After claiming the national championship in 1945, Loyola enters this year’s NAIA Division I National Championship as one of only nine teams to have won a NAIA DI title.

In his third season at the helm, Loyola head coach Stacy Hollowell comes into tomorrow’s game with a 53-35 overall record, including a 32-24 mark in Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) games. This will be Hollowell’s first trip the NAIA DI National Championship.
Entering Wednesday’s matchup, the Wolf Pack have won eight of its last nine games with its only loss coming in the SSAC Championship semifinals against then-No. 13 William Carey University.
The Wolf Pack qualified for the tournament as the final at-large team in the field.
Loyola is 7-2 all-time in the NAIA Division I National Championship.

Coming out of the Heart of America Athletic Conference, the No. 2 Statesmen head to Kansas City riding a 12-game winning streak.
Head Coach John Henry is in his 16th season in charge at William Penn and he carries a 338-188 all-time record.
The Statesmen are making their seventh appearance in the NAIA DI National Championship this year and their fifth in the last six seasons (8-6 all-time record).
Last season, William Penn defeated both Montana Western and Columbia (Mo.) in the tournament before falling 99-80 to Georgetown (Ky.).

These two teams are playing each other for the first time ever.
Loyola has never faced a team from the HAAC.
Dating back to 1904, the Statesmen have never squared off against a team from the SSAC.

After landing at No. 29 in the final NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, Loyola was awarded the tournament’s final at-large bid, snapping a 71-year hiatus for the Wolf Pack in the championship.
Loyola last went to a national tournament in 1995, when the team qualified for the NAIA Division II National Championship.

Loyola senior Johnny Griffin Jr. (SR/Chicago, IL.) enters the postseason having been named this year’s SSAC Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-SSAC selection. Johnny currently ranks third in the country with 3.8 rebounds per game, while his 310 total rebounds and 10.0 boards per game lands the forward at fifth and sixth in the nation, respectively.
In 31 games played, the Chicago native scored in double figures 24 times and grabbed at least 10 boards on 16 occasions.
Griffin Jr.’s 310 rebounds in 2016-17 set a new Loyola program record, breaking the mark (287) he set last season.
Despite only playing two years for the Wolf Pack after transferring from NCAA DI Chicago State, Griffin Jr. currently ranks sixth all-time in Loyola history in both total rebounds (597) and blocks (67).
After being featured on CBS and ESPN last season for his high-flying talents, Griffin Jr. will be Loyola’s first-ever participate in the upcoming NABC-NAIA Shoot & Slam on March 18 in Kansas City, Mo.

Along with Griffin Jr., Loyola features two exceptionally talented seniors in guard Jalen Gray (SR/New Orleans, La.) and center Nate Pierre (SR/Folsom, La.).
Gray enters Wednesday’s game ranking third on the team at 12.0 points per game while leading the squad with 128 assists.
A Second Team All-SSAC selection in 2016-17, Gray’s 128 helpers topped the league while his 4.13 assists per game landed him second in the conference.
The New Orleans native heads to Kansas City third on the Wolf Pack all-time assists list (375), 10th on the all-time steals list (113), and 17th on Loyola’s all-time scoring list (1224).
The anchor in the middle for Loyola, Pierre is currently third in Wolf Pack history with 149 career blocks.

Junior guard Nick Parker (JR/Port Allen, La.) leads Loyola and ranks ninth in the SSAC with 14.5 points per game. A recent addition to the 1000-point club, Nick earned his first career First Team All-SSAC honor this season.
Parker has scored in double figures in all but nine games this season, including eight 20-plus point performances.

The Statesmen features two of the best players in the HAAC in senior’s Torren Jones and Lionel Ellison. In his first year at William Penn, Jones was named the 2016-17 Heart Player and Newcomer of the Year after averaging 19.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. A New Orleans native, Ellison enters Wednesday’s game averaging 11.7 points, 4.6 boards, 4.7 assists, and 2.2 steals per outing. For his efforts this season, Ellison earned First Team All-HAAC honors.
Jones has been an absolute beast on the boards for the Statesmen this season, leading the NAIA with 378 total rebounds and ranking second in the country in both defensive rebounds per game (8.18), and total rebounds per game (11.8).
Ellison’s 71 total steals are the third most in the NAIA this season and his 154 total assists are the eighth highest mark in the country this year.

Entering Wednesday’s showdown against the Wolf Pack, William Penn is leading the NAIA in scoring offense (92.7 ppg), total rebounds per game (46), total scoring offense (3061), and total rebound offense (1536).
A quick glance at the national rankings shows William Penn landing inside the top-15 nationally in 16 major statistical categories.

Loyola and William Penn are both members of the Duer Bracket, which features No. 7 seed Oklahoma City (21-10) who leads the entire NAIA with six national championships.
Fellow Crescent City school No. 2 seed Dillard is also in the Duer Bracket and will face off against the OKCU in the first round on Wednesday at 4:45 p.m.

The WPU/LU winner will face the winner of the No. 4 seed Georgetown (Ky.)/No. 5 seed Park (Mo.) contest on Friday at 2:15 p.m.

View the game online – ($9.95 per session)

View the game on campus – There will be a game viewing party on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. in the sixth floor conference room of the USC. Popcorn and drinks will be provided and this event is open to all Loyola faculty, staff and students.

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