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Loyola can’t complete comeback as Valparaiso earns 85-76 win

Updated: March 21, 2013 6:48AM

Loyola, without senior Ben Averkamp and junior Cully Payne, were the youngest team in the country Tuesday playing against the oldest—Horizon League-leading Valparaiso and its seven seniors.

The ``youngsters’’ rallied from a 42-27 halftime deficit to tie the ``veterans’’ three times in the second half. But experience prevailed in the end for the Crusaders in an 85-76 victory at the Gentile Arena.

``They did what talented teams do and found solutions to win in the end,’’ Loyola coach Porter Moser said.

The victory helped the Crusaders (21-7, 11-3) secure a tighter hold on first place in the conference with two games remaining before the conference tournament. Winning the regular season championship means a double bye for the victor into the semi-finals and the potential to host the championship game.

But Valpo coach Bryce Drew said the league’s parity makes the road ahead a challenge.

``Loyola lost five games by a total of nine points,’’ Drew said of the eighth-place Ramblers (14-13, 4-10). ``They’re nine points from playing from first place.

``You have to credit Porter and his staff. They’re playing mostly underclassmen and their coming back in the second half is a great tribute.

``I’m proud of our resiliency,’’ he added. ``We’ve been a team all year and we were tonight with everyone scoring at least six points.’’

Valparaiso was led by 16 points from senior Will Bogan, with seniors Ryan Broekhoff and Matt Kenney each adding 14.

The Crusaders were coming off an 84-74 loss Saturday against second place Detroit—a game they led by 15 with less than nine minutes.

``We talked about that at halftime, and we made a run, but it came down to getting stops in the end and we didn’t get them,’’ said Loyola senior Jordan Hicks (13 points, 8 rebounds).

The Ramblers were led by sophomore Christian Thomas, who got all 15 points in the second half, with eight rebounds.

``Christian came out the way he does playing so hard,’’ Moser said. ``He had really good looks in the first half and it bothered him that he missed them. I told him to just keep shooting. Our younger guys feed off him.’’

Averkamp missed a fourth straight game because of lingering concussion symptoms.

Averkamp had scored 16 points with five rebounds and five assists against Valpo in the first meeting Jan. 2 when the Ramblers upset the Crusaders 63-54.

Payne missed a second straight game with an injured left thumb he hurt a week ago against Milwaukee.

He is to undergo tests Wednesday to determine the severity.

``You can’t spot a team like that 15 points, but credit our guys because they came how in the second half ready to compete,’’ Moser said. ``There were a lot of teachable moments. We have to build on that second half.’’

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