ROME, Ga. – The Loyola University New Orleans men’s basketball team dropped a 72-63 decision to the Belhaven Blazers in the semifinal round of the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament at the Forum on Friday afternoon.
Senior forward Cameron Cates led the Wolfpack with a game-high 24 points to go along with a game-high nine rebounds while senior guard Corey Gray added 18 points, seven boards, and four assists for Loyola (20-10).
LU got off to a fast start, scoring the first five points of the game off of a Cates jumper and a Robert Lovaglio three. At the 16:58 mark, Belhaven quickly rebounded going on a 9-0 run in 57 seconds. From there, the Wolfpack regained the lead at the 12:10 point after a three-pointer from Gray. With the ‘Pack up 14-13, the Blazers went on a 9-3 scoring run to go up by five.
Down 27-31 at the half, Belhaven held the Wolfpack scoreless for the opening three minutes of the second half. A Cates layup broke the drought. However, that basket put the ‘Pack on a 6-0 run over the next three minutes. With the score 39-35, Belhaven increased its lead to nine at the 12:00 mark. Over the remainder of the second half, Loyola got within four points, but could not gain a lead and eventually fell 63-72.
Three Belhaven players scored in double-figures to lead the Blazers to victory. Sophomore Chris Cofield scored a team-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds. Senior Woody Howard added 17 points, seven boards and five steals. Senior Brittion Smith rounded out the group with 10 points.
Loyola must hope for an at large bid to the NAIA National Tournament to extend their season. The field of 32 teams will be announced on Wednesday.