Total Team Effort Helps Loyola Knock Off Valpo, 63-54

Christian Thomas went for 14 points and six rebounds in Loyola's 63-54 victory at Valparaiso

Christian Thomas went for 14 points and six rebounds in Loyola's 63-54 victory at Valparaiso

Jan. 2, 2013

Box Score

VALPARAISO, Ind. - A smothering defense held defending Horizon League regular-season champion Valparaiso (10-5, 0-1 Horizon) to 36 percent (20 for 56) shooting as Loyola University Chicago (10-3, 1-0 Horizon) won its fourth straight game with a 63-54 victory over the Crusaders tonight at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The win is also Loyola's third in a row on the road.

"Our guys had the difficult challenge of playing against a team that was shooting 47 percent from the field coming into this game and held them to 36 percent tonight," Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. "Our guys are learning to play possession-by-possession basketball. (Ben) Averkamp struggled shooting the ball but like great players do, he made plays when we needed them down the stretch, and Christian Thomas continues to be a beast."

The tone was set in the first half as both teams struggled to get going offensively due to the physical nature of the game. Loyola's defense was relentless and kept the Crusaders at bay, holding them to 29 percent shooting (10 for 34).

Behind some lethal perimeter shooting from Cully Payne and Devon Turk, who combined for five three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes, the Ramblers led by as many as five points before taking a 26-24 lead into the locker room at the half.

Five straight points from Joe Crisman early in the second half helped Loyola build a 33-27 advantage, but Valparaiso would claw its way back and Matt Kenney's only hoop of the game at the 9:27 mark cut the Ramblers' lead to 39-37.

However, Averkamp, who had struggled on the offensive end of the floor up to that point, was fouled on a successful layup attempt and completed the conventional three-point play to kick off an 11-3 run that was punctuated with a layup from Thomas as Loyola took a 50-40 lead.

From there, Valparaiso would get no closer than seven points as Loyola won its Horizon League opener for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Loyola won the battle of the boards (34-32) and forced 13 Crusader turnovers on the night. Averkamp scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, going 8 for 9 from the foul line, and added five rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and a steal. Thomas finished with 14 points and six rebounds, and Payne collected 13 points, seven assists, and a pair of steals to help the Ramblers win for the eighth time in the last nine games.

Ryan Broekhoff scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Valpo.

Loyola returns home for the first time since December 15 when it hosts Youngstown State on Saturday (Jan. 5).