VALPARAISO | At one point during the first half of Wednesday's Horizon League opener against Loyola, Valparaiso missed 10 consecutive field goal attempts.
The Crusaders made just 10-of-34 shots in the half and were fortunate to trail just 26-24 at the break.
It was more of the same in the second half, as the Crusaders never got in a flow offensively in a 63-54 loss at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Crusaders (10-5, 0-1) would finish just 20-of-56 shooting (35.7 percent), including 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from 3-point range. Loyola (10-3, 1-0) shot 22-of-47 (46.8 percent) and also enjoyed a 34-32 rebounding advantage while forcing 13 Crusader turnovers.
"We can't shoot 35 percent in our own gym and give up 47," Valpo coach Bryce Drew said. "We knew we would have to play a really good game. We thought a few days ago at Murray State (a 66-64 win on Saturday) we were excellent, but we then we came back tonight and just didn't have the energy and didn't play as well as we did a few days ago.
"The great thing is the conference season is 16 games, and every one means the same. We can't dwell on this one for too long."
Ryan Broekhoff led Valpo with 15 points and seven rebounds. Kevin Van Wijk, who hit the deck early in the game and hobbled off the court but returned, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Erik Buggs came off the bench to finish with nine points.
For Loyola, Ben Averkamp finished with a game-high 16 points. Chris Thomas added 14, while Cully Payne had 13. Munster native Joe Crisman had five points and four rebounds for the Ramblers.
Loyola had a 7-0 run early in the second half to take a 33-27 lead, with five of the points coming from Crisman. Crisman rimmed in a 3-pointer and scored on a short bank on back-to-back possessions for the Ramblers.
Later, Loyola scored on six consecutive possessions to build a 50-40 lead with less than six minutes to play. The Ramblers were able to hold on the rest of the way as Valpo continued to misfire from 3-point range.
"Our guys kept good spacing, because I thought Valpo did a good job of extending the zone (defense)," Loyola coach Porter Moser said. "You have to crash the boards, and we made a couple of key back-cut plays."
Early in the game, the Crusaders got a spark off the bench from Buggs. He took advantage of his defender playing off him at the 3-point line and drove the lane for two buckets and an 11-8 lead with 13 minutes remaining.
But from there Loyola went on an 8-0 run as the Crusaders went ice cold from the field, missing 10 shots in a row including four on one possession. Payne, a transfer from Iowa who scored 24 points Saturday in a win over DePaul, started the Rambler run with a 3-pointer with 10:57 remaining.
The Crusaders finally broke a 4:21 scoreless stretch when Ben Boggs made a layup at 8:46, and Broekhoff later tied it at 18-18 on a runner in the lane with 5:02 remaining.
There were four ties and seven lead changes in the first half, which ended with another Payne 3-pointer and Valpo's Bobby Capobianco misfiring from the lane as the halftime buzzer sounded.
"Our guys are giving the effort," Drew said. "I don't know if they were trying too hard on those layups. I thought we were getting the ball where we wanted to but didn't finish."