Dillard’s women’s basketball team has won just five of its 11 games this season. However, three have come against teams ranked in the NAIA’s top 25 poll.
After Saturday, two have come against No. 13-ranked Loyola. The Bleu Devils overcame a 16-point early deficit in beating the Wolfpack 71-69 at The Den.
Dillard beat No. 18 Shawnee State in its previous game on Nov. 30 in the Xavier tournament.
“Our athletic director, Kiki Barnes, wants us to get the program back to the national level,” Dillard coach Norbert Rome said. “We’re glad to have the opportunity to play those type of teams.”
Dillard trailed 16-0 just 5:47 into the game after struggling against Loyola’s 1-3-1 defense. However, behind senior guard/forward Alena Evans (25 points, nine rebounds), junior forward Keona Favis (16 points), freshman guard Alyssa Washington (16 points) and in-your-face defense, the Devils chipped away.
Dillard took its first lead — 57-56 — at 8:30 of the fourth quarter, then braved a brief Loyola lead and two ties before holding off the Wolfpack in the final four minutes.
Rome said Evans put it on herself to lead Dillard back.
“We just didn’t have any energy to start the game,” Evans said. “I felt that if I got it going, it would spread to somebody else, then somebody else and keep spreading.”
Loyola coach Kelli Kennedy said Dillard’s defense prevented the Wolfpack from spreading the floor with its 3-point shooting, a big part of its game. Its shooters chased off the 3-point line, Loyola (6-3) shot 3-of-23 on 3-point attempts.
Forward Caroline Gonzalez made the first two she took in the first quarter. The Wolfpack didn’t hit another until guard Di’Mond Jackson made one at the final buzzer.
“The fouls hurt us, we shot 13 percent from the 3-point line when we outrebounded them (43-36),” Kennedy said. “We just didn’t play the second half like we did the first. That third quarter killed us.”
Loyola led 48-37 when All-Southern States Athletic Conference forward Meghan Temple picked up her third foul at 6:34 of the third. She sat out the rest of the quarter, which ended with the Wolfpack clinging to a 53-52 lead.
The scoring load fell on the shoulders of guard Briana Oglesby, and Dillard held her to 5-of-17 shooting, including 0-of-9 on 3s. Temple, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, fouled out with 3:17 left in the game. A minute before that, guard Shaelynn Moore had sunk a 3-pointer, producing a 67-64 lead.
The Wolfpack didn’t get closer until the final shot at the buzzer.
“When we beat Loyola on our home court (73-68, Nov. 3), we really shot well,” Evans said. “(Saturday), it was all about defense.”