Dillard found itself in a big hole early in its NAIA season-opener against Loyola on Thursday night at Dent Hall.
However, the Bleu Devils, ranked No. 11 in the nation, came back behind 52.5 percent shooting in fighting past the Wolf Pack 87-79.
“It looked like a first game,” said Dillard third-year coach Mike Newell. “Our guard play was horrendous in the first half, but we settled down, played defense and starting making some shots.”
Guard Malik Amoss led Dillard with 20 points. Point guard Jeffrey Drake-Todd had 13, forward Jeron Rogers 12 and forward Jamerson Roberts 11.
Loyola coach Stacy Hollowell only needed to show his team one stat concerning its loss. The Wolf Pack shot 13 of 35 on free throws.
“If you miss 22 free throws, you can't beat a junior-high team,” Hollowell said. “I liked our guys' hustle and intensity, but we've got to clean that up.”
Dillard, which shot 18 of 28 from the line, also outrebounded Loyola 48-42.
The Bleu Devils took the lead for the first time, 60-58 at the 8:34 mark on a fast-break dunk by Roberts. Dillard led 66-60 after a 3-pointer by Drake-Todd. Loyola didn't come closer than five points the rest of the way.
Loyola led 35-31 at halftime after holding Dillard to 10-of-38 shooting, including 3 of 21 on 3-point attempts, and outrebounded the Bleu Devils 25-21. The Wolf Pack, however, shot 2 of 12 on free throws, keeping the score close.
The Wolf Pack jumped on the Blue Devils from the start, taking a 12-0 lead two minutes, 33 seconds into the game. Alternating man-to-man and zone full-court presses, Loyola forced Dillard to play faster than perhaps they wanted, and the Blue Devils missed their first four shots and had three turnovers.
However, with Newell substituting often, Dillard adjusted to the press and began finding the mark from outside, and with the aid of several put-backs came to 17-13 with 12:31 showing.
Loyola led 27-22 when Wolf Pack guard Ethan Turner sank a 3-pointer with 3:43 showing for a 30-22 margin. Loyola led 35-27 at 1:03 before halftime when Roberts was fouled on the break and sank two free throws with 33.5 seconds. His put-back with 12 seconds left cut the Pack's lead to four.