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Shorthanded Loyola snaps four-game skid

Updated: March 18, 2013 7:07AM

Loyola coach Porter Moser found out before game time Saturday that he would be without senior scoring leader Ben Averkamp (concussion) and junior point guard Cully Payne (left thumb).

But the Ramblers had inspiration off the court against UIC. The 1963 national championship team was on hand at Gentile Arena for its 50th-anniversary celebration.

‘‘They’re mandated to come to every game now,’’ Moser said of the champs, who also watched the Dec. 15 victory against Mississippi State.

Playing with four freshmen, two sophomores and a senior, the Ramblers ended a four-game losing streak with a 69-60 victory over their city rivals, who had taken the first meeting Jan. 16 at the UIC Pavilion.

Sophomore Christian Thomas had a career-high 23 points with 11 rebounds to lead the Ramblers (14-12, 4-9 Horizon League), and senior Jordan Hicks added 18 points.

‘‘Our focus was on who was playing, not who wasn’t,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘We miss Ben and Cully, but our other guys stepped up.’’

Averkamp practiced during the week but had headaches again Saturday. Payne injured his thumb in last week’s loss at Milwaukee.

‘‘Hats off to Loyola for coming out with great purpose,’’ UIC coach Howard Moore said. ‘‘They did good things shorthanded. They had a lot of guys looking to do some things with the opportunity.’’

The game turned midway through the first half after good opening defensive minutes for both teams. Loyola broke through with an 11-2 run and had a 36-23 lead at halftime.

The lead grew to 16 early in the second half before the Flames (15-11, 6-7) cut it to 58-54 with 5:22 left. But the Ramblers held off the comeback.

‘‘I told our guys to be ready because I knew we’d get a [Loyola] team that was excited and fired up to play,’’ Moore said. ‘‘I’m disappointed in our team’s approach.’’

Early foul trouble kept the Flames from going inside, and they went 5-for-21 from three-point range.

The Flames were led by sophomore Marc Brown, who scored 13 points off the bench. Senior guard Gary Talton had 10 points and eight assists.

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