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Cully Payne helps Loyola basketball stay on course

Updated: December 30, 2012 4:06PM

Loyola had the double-bonus advantage at the free-throw line for more than seven minutes of the second half Wednesday against Tennessee Tech.

But poor shooting from the line nearly cost the Ramblers, who went 6-for-14 in the closing minute while the Golden Eagles cut into a five-point lead.

It took Joe Crisman’s last two with six seconds left to secure an 81-78 victory at the Gentile Center.

“It’s pressure,’’ junior guard Cully Payne said of Loyola’s late struggles at the line. “It’s surprising guys missed because they’re guys who are usually really good. We do things in practice to simulate late situations like that, but it’s not the same. But in the end, we got one.’’

Payne’s 18 points led the Ramblers (5-2), and he added five assists and four steals. His biggest steal came with four minutes left and the Golden Eagles (3-2) down 68-64. Payne dove for a loose ball at the Tennessee Tech end and threw down the court to senior Jordan Hicks (15 points), who scored. Payne followed with two baskets, including a three-pointer.

“[Payne is] getting his swagger back after two years [following a transfer from Iowa],’’ Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “He’s getting more confident every game.’’

The Ramblers had a 14-point lead midway through the second half and seemed in control. But the Golden Eagles, led by Matt Marseille (21 points), sliced the margin.

“We didn’t execute down the stretch,’’ said Loyola senior Ben Averkamp, who had 16 points. “I made a turnover and others did. They weren’t smart plays. But this gives us experience, and that’s something we have to build on. It’s always easier to clean up mistakes after a win.’’

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