What went down: The Loyola women’s basketball team (5-18, 3-9) returned to Gentile Arena winners of two out of its last three games to take on Valparaiso University Sunday afternoon. After holding a lead for more than three quarters, the Ramblers surrendered 30 points in the fourth quarter to fall to the Crusaders 63-53.
How it happened: Loyola opened up the game on a 7-0 run and stretched the lead to 25-16 at the half. Loyola’s lead grew to as large as 12 points in the third period, but Valparaiso slowly chipped away the deficit to take its first lead of the game at 42-41 with 6:20 remaining in the fourth quarter. Tied 50-50 with 2:27 left, Valparaiso surged with a 13-3 run to close the game.
Analysis: The Ramblers used a combination of three-point marksmanship and stout defense to take a healthy nine point lead into the half. Loyola knocked down five three pointers in the first half, shooting 10-for-24 from three point land on the game, and held Valparaiso to 16 points in the first half on 25.4 percent shooting.
First-year guard Ellie Rice led the Ramblers with 17 points on 5-of-10 shots from beyond the arc and five rebounds in 37 minutes. Rice kept the Ramblers in the game late, scoring six of Loyola’s 12 points in the final quarter.
Redshirt senior guard Jessica Cerda joined the three-point party in the second quarter, knocking four three-pointers, including three on three straight possessions to give Loyola a nine point halftime lead. Cerda connected on one more three-pointer in the second half to finish with 15 points.
Senior Katie Salmon was the only other Rambler to score in double digits, tallying 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Salmon also recorded six rebounds and three assists.
The Ramblers’ defense crumpled in the second half, which cost them the game. After being held to single digits in each quarter of the first half, Valparaiso scored 17 points in the third quarter and then shot 50 percent from the field to explode for 30 points in the fourth quarter.
Poor rebounding also plagued the Ramblers. Valparaiso out-rebounded Loyola 45-33 and used 14 offensive rebounds to take a 13-3 advantage in second-chance points. Down the stretch, Loyola struggled to take care of the ball, giving up seven of its 14 turnovers on the game in the fourth quarter.
Achter’s thoughts: In the postgame press conference, head coach Kate Achter said it was her team’s complacency in the second half and inability to put together a solid collective performance that cost the Ramblers the game.
“I think that was a pretty good glimpse at the Loyola rollercoaster we’ve been on all season,” Achter said. “We do a lot of really good things in the first half and then just don’t have the maturity or toughness or experience or whatever it may be in the second half to finish it out.”
What’s next? The Ramblers are scheduled to take on Missouri State University at Gentile Arena Feb. 16.