Valparaiso shot just 35.7% from the field on Wednesday evening at the ARC as the Crusaders fell in their Horizon League opener by a 63-54 score to Loyola.
The Crusaders shot just 10-of-34 (29.4%) from the floor in the first half, but trailed by just two at intermission. Valpo’s shooting improved to 45.5% (10-of-22) in the second half, but was offset by 52.2% (12-of-23) shooting from Loyola, which also went 12-of-15 from the foul line in the final 20 minutes.
“We knew coming in that Loyola was a very good team, especially coming off a win at DePaul, and that it would take a good game to beat them,” said Crusader head coach Bryce Drew. “A few days ago at Murray State, we were excellent and played one of our best games of the year. Tonight, we just didn’t have the energy and didn’t play as well as we needed to play to be able to win. The good news is this is just one of 16 league games, and with another coming up on Friday, we can’t dwell on this one too long.”
Valpo claimed its largest lead early in the game, as a diving save on the fast break from senior Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) went directly to senior Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) for an open 3-pointer, and fifth-year senior Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) hit a driving layup on the Crusaders’ next possession to go ahead 9-4 just over five minutes in.
Loyola answered with a 12-2 run over the next five minutes to take a five-point lead of its own, as the first half went back and forth, with seven lead changes and four ties. The Ramblers claimed the final bucket of the opening half on a Cully Payne 3-pointer with 1:26 left in the stanza as they went into the half up 26-24.
A fast-break triple by Broekhoff just over 60 seconds into the second half put Valpo ahead 27-26, but that would be the last lead for the Crusaders, as Loyola scored seven straight points over the next two minutes. Valpo closed back within one on a pair of free throws from junior LaVonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) with 14:15 to go, and twice got back to within two points midway through the half, but the Ramblers scored on seven straight possessions from the 9:52 mark to the 4:23 mark to keep the Crusaders at bay.
Broekhoff paced Valpo with 15 points Wednesday and also tied for team-high honors with senior Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) with seven boards. Van Wijk and Dority added 10 points apiece.
Ben Averkamp led all players with a 16-point night for Loyola (10-3, 1-0 Horizon), which also got 14 points from Christian Thomas and 13 from Payne. Payne handed out a game-best seven assists, while Averkamp added five helpers as well.
Valparaiso (10-5, 0-1 Horizon) returns to the ARC Friday evening for a league contest against Cleveland State, live on ESPNU at 6 p.m. The game, as always, can also be heard on the Valpo Sports Radio Network. Links for live audio, video and stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com, while ValpoGameday.com is your one-stop shop for live video, stats and interactive chat.