Bulldogs Downed by Loyola, 74-53

W. Lafayette, IN - Loyola of Chicago opened the second half with a 15-2 run, breaking open a tight game and sending Georgia to a 74-53 defeat in the first round of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off here Monday night.

The Bulldogs (1-1) will play Eastern Michigan in the second round Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. (EST). EMU dropped an 87-58 decision to host Purdue in the opening game here. Loyola (1-1) will face the No. 11 Boilermakers on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. for a berth in the tournament semifinals at New York, N.Y.

After Loyola had led in the first half by as many as five points, the two teams played to a 29-all tie at halftime. Andy Polka's driving 3-point play 21 seconds into the final period ignited the Ramblers on their decisive run. After a Zac Swansey turnover, Polka connected again, giving his team a 34-29 advantage with 18:39 left.

The Loyola lead reached double figures at 42-31 on a pair of foul shots by J.R. Blount with 15:55 left. The largest margin came with the final score, on two more free throws by Ryan Sterling with three seconds remaining.

Even with a halftime tie, Georgia struggled throughout with its ballhandling and shooting. The Bulldogs shot just 34 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers to go along with only five assists.

"What you saw was a young and inexperienced Georgia team playing an older, veteran team in Loyola," said Georgia head coach Dennis Felton. "We never really developed any confidence in what we were doing. Once we got down, we really struggled offensively. We'll need to take lessons from this game and come back strong tomorrow."

The loss overshadowed a superb performance by Georgia freshman Travis Leslie, who led all scorers with 23 points. The 6-3 guard made 10 of 14 shots, mostly slashing drives along the baseline, as well as one stupendous dunk in the second half.

Georgia will now play next week in the consolation bracket of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Opponents and sites will be finalized on Wednesday of this week.

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