CHICAGO (AP) Trailing by two points at halftime, Loyola of Chicago picked up its intensity in the second half to overcome a Louisiana-Monroe team with a noticeable height advantage.
Earl Peterson scored 16 points to lead a balanced offense as the scrappy Ramblers beat the Warhawks 65-58 Monday night in the opener of the College Basketball Invitational championship series.
Christian Thomas had 12 points, Montel James added 11 and Devon Turk 10 to help the Loyola (23-13) shake off a two-point halftime deficit to take command in the second half.
''I thought we were way more aggressive in the second half going north-south,'' Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser said. ''The other thing we talked about was transition. ... The rebound is the admission ticket to the fast break. I thought we rebounded better in the second half and therefore were able to run some more.''
The best-of-three series shifts to Monroe, La., for Game 2 on Wednesday, and Game 3 - if necessary - on Friday.
Trailing 26-24 at halftime, the Ramblers used a 13-5 run to take a 42-35 lead. Ben Richardson's jumper later gave Loyola a 56-44 advantage, its biggest of the game.
''At halftime we talked about being more physical and I thought we did a better job,'' Moser said. ''If you're going to win that battle with guys 6-10, 6-9, 6-7. You've got to put a body on them.''
Louisiana-Monroe pulled within three points with 4:32 to play but got no closer.
''We just couldn't stop them, really and truly, all night long,'' Louisiana-Monroe coach Keith Richard said. ''We tried everything. We tried four-guard lineups, we tried zone, we tried man, we switched back to zone.
''We tried it all.''
Jamaal Samuel scored 15 points to lead the Warhawks (24-13). Tylor Ongwae had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Justin Roberson added 11 points and Majok Deng had 10.
''We had a lot of balls tipped out of our hands, we had a lot of missed layups and point-blank shows where Loyola-Chicago made all those plays,'' Richard said.
It was the first all-time meeting between the teams and Loyola's first game against a Sun Belt team since 2002.
Loyola led 10-7 at the 8:16 mark while Louisiana-Monroe managed was shooting just 3 for 12 from the field. But the Warhawks shook off the shaky early shooting with an 11-2 run over a span of 6:35 while the Ramblers shot just 1 for 5.
Loyola regained the lead at 17-16 on Turk's 3-pointer with 4:40 left in the first half. Ongwae responded with a layup and helped the Warhawks take a 26-24 lead at halftime.
Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks entered the game with eight wins in their last 10 road games, including six straight, the most since 1993-94. ... Louisiana-Monroe advanced with a 71-65 semifinal victory over Vermont.
Loyola: The Ramblers have never played this late in a season, even when it won the 1963 NCAA championship. Their 23 wins are the most since 1985.
The Warhawks are among only three teams this season to not allow more than 75 points in any game this season along with St. Peter's and Baylor. Louisiana-Monroe is the only one still playing and has held opponents below 60 points 17 times.
BEYOND THE ARC
Loyola's 218 made 3-pointers is a single-season school record, surpassing the previous mark of 197 set in 2002-03.
The CBI has used a 30-second shot clock through the tournament to help the NCAA research on pace and play and scoring. The NCAA plans to use the CBI's analysis when in meets in May.
Game 2 of the best-of-three championship series is Wednesday at Monroe, La.