Johnson, Defense Propel Loyola Past Valparaiso, 52-44
Jan. 16, 2013
Valparaiso, Ind. - Taylor Johnson scored a game-high 19 points, including a pair of key baskets in the final two minutes, and Loyola's defense forced 25 turnovers as the Ramblers overcame a slow shooting start to knock off Valparaiso 52-44 tonight at the ARC. The win was Loyola's (6-9, 1-1 Horizon) first-ever victory at Valpo. The Crusaders drop to 6-9 (1-1) with the loss.
"This is about as proud as I've been of a team during my time at Loyola," said head coach Eric Simpson. "Our defense was terrific tonight and that is what got us through our slow start offensively. Katie (Faught) was terrific, hitting four big three-pointers and being in the right spots defensively, Abby gave us productive minutes and Taylor had another great game including some big-time plays down the stretch to get us through."
Playing without its two leading scorers, Loyola got off to a woeful start on the offensive end. The Ramblers missed their first 10 from the floor before Abby Skube knocked down a three-pointer but a stifling defense prevented the home team from opening things up. Two Johnson free throws made it a 10-5 game with 8:52 left but Loyola still had made only the one field goal until Faught snapped LU out of a 1-for-20 drought with a trey. The visitors finally started to get into a rhythm on the offensive end and back-to-back threes from Johnson and Faught capped a 20-3 LU run over the last 10:31 of the half that sent the Ramblers to the locker room with a 23-13 lead. Loyola finished the period just 8-of-34 (23.5%) but it forced 14 turnovers and held Valpo to only 25% accuracy as the Crusaders' 13 points were the second-lowest allowed in a half in program history.
A Johnson steal and layup on the opening possession of the second half gave LU its largest lead of the game and both teams began to execute better on the offensive end. Valpo used a 13-4 run to cut a 10-point Loyola lead down to one (31-30) at the 11:29 mark but four points from Skube and another three from Faught bumped the lead back to six with just over nine minutes to go. The home team again sliced the deficit to one but a put-back from Molly Crosby and a Troy Hambric basket provided the answer as LU made it a two-possession game again.
Valpo made one last push, drawing with 46-44 on a Tabitha Gerardot basket, but another steal and hoop from Johnson made it a four-point game and, after a defensive stop, Johnson drove the lane again for a basket with the shot clock winding down to make it a 50-44 game with 38 seconds left and she added two free throws later to ice the game.
Johnson, who recorded a double-double with points and steals earlier in the season, recorded a more conventional one tonight, finishing with 19 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and six thefts to pace the Ramblers. Skube added 13 and Faught 12 off the bench as the Loyola bench brigade accounted for 29 points. Gerardot had 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds to lead Valpo, who turned the ball over 25 times tonight compared to just eight for Loyola.
Loyola returns home for a Saturday afternoon game against Wright State. Tip time is set for 2 p.m. at Gentile Arena.