No. 24 Loyola drops 63-61 decision in thriller against No. 19 Oklahoma City

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(New Orleans La.) Friday’s post-Thanksgiving women’s basketball showdown between No. 24 Loyola University New Orleans and No. 19 Oklahoma City University at First NBC Court certainly did not lack hype entering the game.

It was a battle of top-25 programs in the NAIA, it was selected as the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Network Game of the Week and it would be the victory to move Loyola head coach Kellie Kennedy to the top of the all-time wins list in Wolf Pack basketball history if the home team were able to come out on top.

With all these factors leading into the game, it would take a particularly exciting game to live up to all the hype. Luckily for all those in attendance – it was.

Coming off a timeout and with 12 seconds remaining, the Stars had possession with a chance to steal one on the road. Despite exceptional defense by the Wolf Pack, Oklahoma City’s Daniela Wallen managed to sink a jumper with a hand in her face to hand the No. 19 Stars the 63-61 victory at First NBC Court.

Oklahoma City dropped in two triples to start the game to go up 6-2 in the first quarter. Loyola used a three-pointer by Zoie Miller and back-to-back buckets by Kaila Anthony to orchestrate a 10-0 run to grab the 12-6 advantage with 4:23 to play in the opening frame. Down five, the Stars ended the first quarter on a 6-0 spurt to give the visitors the 17-16 lead entering the second.

Loyola started the second on a 6-0 run – capped off by a three from Paige Franckiewicz – to give the Wolf Pack the 23-17 advantage with just under eight to play in the half. Loyola managed to maintain to lead for the remainder of the second to take the 35-30 cushion into the locker rooms.

Coming out in the second half, Loyola was able to extend its advantage to nine points after a layup by Miller at the 5:41 mark. The Wolf Pack was able to hold on to a five-point cushion over the next five minutes to take the 45-40 lead into the final frame of action.

The fourth quarter saw Loyola turn the ball over on its first three possessions to open up the door the visiting Stars. Oklahoma City dropped in seven-unanswered points to grab the 47-45 lead before Anthony dropped in a floater to knot the game at 47-47 with 7:30 remaining in regulation. Down five with 2:03 to play, Di’Mond Jackson drained a triple off an assist by Shayne Charles to pull the Wolf Pack within two.

Following a missed jumper on the other end, Miller dropped in a layup to tie the contest up at 59 all with one minute to play. Oklahoma City converted on two free throws with 23 seconds remaining to give the visitors the 60-59 advantage with time running out.

Coming out of a timeout, the Wolf Pack turned to Meghan Temple – the team’s leading scorer – and the senior responded with a tough layup underneath off a drive by Di’Mond Jackson to knot the game at 61-61 with just 12 seconds to go. The Stars managed to get the ball up court, and despite great defense by Loyola, Oklahoma City’s Wallen hit a contested jumper as the buzzer sounded to give the visitors the 63-61 victory in thrilling fashion.

The Wolf Pack shot 39.3% (22-of-56) from the floor and 38.1% (8-of-21) from beyond the arc. Despite entering today’s matchup leading the NAIA in field goal percentage (0.526) Oklahoma City was held to just 36.2% (21-of-58) shooting from the field on Friday. Loyola held the impressive 48-27 rebounding advantage but committed 25 turnovers compared to the Stars’ 13.

Charles led Loyola with 14 points off the bench while reigning SSAC Player of the Week Temple chipped in six points and a game-high 11 rebounds in 26 minutes played. Anthony collected nine points in her first career start and Jackson recorded a great all-around game with seven points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss.

Daniela Warren (12 points) led three Oklahoma City players in double figures and Nashyla Hammons grabbed a game-high seven steals in the victory.

The Wolf Pack will look to right the ship on Monday, Nov. 28, against Millsaps at home at 6:00 p.m.

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