(New Orleans, La.) The anticipation was palpable at First NBC Court on Saturday afternoon as the (RV) Loyola University New Orleans women’s basketball team welcomed No. 14 Bethel University to town for a marquee matchup at home.
Saturday was much more than just a regular game though as it was not only an important late-season meeting between two of the best in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), but it was also selected as this week’s NAIA Network DI Women’s Basketball Game of the Week.
With so much riding on this game, it came as no surprise when Saturday’s meeting proved to be one for the ages. The Wolf Pack had a lot on its mind coming into the affair as the team looked to avenge a heartbreaking 57-54 defeat at Bethel earlier this season as well as a 71-52 loss at home to the then-No. 4 Lady Wildcats in last year’s NAIA Network DI Women’s Basketball Game of the Week on Feb. 13.
Although not pretty at times, Loyola was able to lock Bethel down on the defensive side of the ball – holding the visiting team to just 13-of-59 (22%) shooting from the floor en route to the 54-53 victory for the home team.
With the win, Loyola improves to 22-5 overall and 14-3 in the SSAC to cut the Lady Wildcats (20-8, 16-2 SSAC) lead in the standings to just 1.5 with three regular season games remaining. Saturday’s win marked the first time in three seasons that the Wolf Pack defeated Bethel in a regular season matchup.
Despite battling a leg cramp for a majority of the second half, Di’Mond Jackson paced the Wolf Pack with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds to go along with three assists and a steal. Zoie Miller chipped in 11 points and four boards off the bench while Kylah Jones added eight points, six rebounds a game-high five assists from the lead guard position.
As a unit, the Wolf Pack shot 21-of-57 (36.8%) from the floor and 5-of-17 (29.4%) from beyond the arc on Saturday. Loyola held a slim 44-42 rebounding advantage over the Lady Wildcats while both squads committed 14 turnovers in the game.
Bethel’s Brandi Goodman led all scorers with 16 points off the bench.
The Lady Wildcats came out of the gate struggling, converting on just 2-of-15 shots in the first quarter. Up 10-9, Loyola closed out the frame on a 9-1 spurt to take the 18-10 advantage after the first 10 minutes of action.
The Wolf Pack were able to maintain the lead for the entirety of the second quarter and a deep triple by Miller handed the home team the 27-24 advantage heading to the locker rooms.
Loyola looked to put Bethel away in the third and managed to build its largest lead of the game (44-28) with 1:31 to play. The Lady Wildcats started to slowly chip away at the deficit over the next minute of action and a layup by Abbey Dew as time expired brought the Lady Wildcats within 12, 34-46, entering the fourth quarter.
The shooting woes that plagued Bethel throughout the game managed to sting the Wolf Pack in the fourth as the team only converted on two baskets in the frame. With her team down four, Goodman converted an and-1 with just 10 seconds remaining to bring the Lady Wildcats within one point at 53-54. The home team was able to withstand the Bethel pressure of the final ten seconds and Miller iced the contest with a free throw to give Loyola the primetime victory at home.
Loyola will welcome No. 25 Martin Methodist to First NBC Court on Monday, Feb. 20, for a special Senior Day game at 5:30 p.m.