NEW ORLEANS  – The Loyola Wolf Pack men’s basketball need some dramatics to keep their undefeated Southern States Athletic Conference record in tact. After Middle Georgia State tied the game, 76-76, with 12 seconds left, Michael Harden dribbled the ball up the court and nailed the game-winning shot at the top of the key with less than a second left to give the Pack the 78-76 win over the Knights. 

Loyola is now 10-2 overall, but more importantly, all alone atop the SSAC standings with a 5-0 record. The Wolf Pack will play one more contest before taking a holiday hiatus, hosting Brewton-Parker College on Monday at 2 p.m.

After MGA started the game with a 4-1 lead, Leonard Jackson tied the game with an old-fashioned 3-point play, then Blake Burkey put Loyola ahead, 8-7, a couple of minutes later. After scoring a career-best 15 points in Loyola’s last outing, Burkey had 10 first-half points, scoring his sixth point four minutes into the game to give Loyola a 10-7 lead. Matthew Mondesir entered the game and scored 10 points, including two 3s, and recorded three rebounds, one assist and a block in seven and a half minutes of game time to help make it a 29-22 Loyola lead. 

Alex Hammond converted an and-1 opportunity to push the lead to double digits, 32-22, with seven minutes until the break, but the Knights cut the deficit to six, 32-26, a couple of minutes later. Jackson hit a fade-away jumper near the baseline, then both Dominic Brown and Bradley Alcime got their first points to bring the score to 40-32 with 2:30 minutes left. Milan Mejia scored Loyola’s final points from beyond the arc, as MGA cut the score to 44-38 by halftime. 

The Pack had a little bit of a slow start to the second half, as Middle Georgia cut the lead to one multiple times through the first six minutes. Mondesir and Hammond helped weather the storm with five points each, though, but the Knights did take their first lead of the second half, 56-54, with 12 minutes to go. Trailing by four, Mondesir scored his 17th point then Bradley Alcime nailed a 3-pointer to give the Pack the lead, 59-58, halfway through the second half. 

From that point, there were six ties and four lead changes in the final 10 minutes of play. MGA took a 60-59 lead before Mondesir and Mejia gave the Wolf Pack the lead again, 63-60. Again, the Knights jumped ahead 66-63, but Burkey and Harden switched the lead once again, 68-66. Keeping the trend, Burkey gave Loyola another lead, 72-71, with a 3-pointer, then Mondesir broke a 74-74 tie with two free throws at the 1:20-minute mark. After Middle Georgia got the game-tying bucket in the final 12 seconds, Harden’s heroics put the Pack on top for good.

Pack Facts

  • Michael Harden has experience hitting clutch jumpers this season. His dagger against the Knights on Saturday was his second final-minute go-ahead jumpshot of the season. Harden also hit a stepback jumper to put the Wolf Pack ahead of Missouri Baptist on Nov. 22. 
  • Harden was one of four players to score at least 10 points on Saturday. He finished with 13 points, also leading the team in assists with six.
  • Matthew Mondesir, who hit his first six shots from the floor, led the Wolf Pack in both points (20) and rebounds (7). He also recorded four assists and two blocks. 
  • Bradley Alcime, who made his season debut less than a week ago, scored his first points in a Wolf Pack uniform, including a big three-pointer at the 10-minute mark that gave Loyola a lead. He also blocked two shots. 
  • Blake Burkey, who scored a career high with 15 points in his previous game, again put up 15 against Middle Georgia. He and Alex Hammond grabbed two steals each, a team high. 
  • Hammond was the fourth Wolf Pack player in double figures, scoring 11 total points. 

{Courtesy: Loyola Athletics}