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Big picture: The Valparaiso boys basketball team's average margin of victory was 48 points entering Friday's game at Lowell.

The Times No. 1 Vikings finally had to grind one out, topping the No. 10 Red Devils 77-64.

“This was a learning experience. It’s kind of hard to learn things unless you’re doing them,” Valparaiso coach Barak Coolman said. “The struggle is what makes us stronger. You can kind of see what we need to work on finally, identify some things that we can coach up. These are opportunities.”

The Vikings jumped out to a 12-1 lead and never looked back, only expanding that lead as the first half went on. At the break, Valparaiso led 53-32.

Senior guard Brandon Newman had 21 points at halftime.

“It was definitely a tale of two halves,” Coolman said. “We really came out and played well but I felt like we lost some focus and let up in the second half. Give Lowell a lot of credit because they really battled and competed. They’ve really got some good players.”

The Red Devils outscored Valparaiso 32-24 in the second half.

“We let up, thought we were better than we really are,” senior point guard Colin Walls said. “We took a break defensively and offensively and settled for jump shots instead of getting to the rim.”

Senior forward Nate Aerts added 21 points and eight rebounds for Valparaiso.

Turning Point: The Vikings scored 28 points in the second quarter to expand the lead beyond the point where Lowell could catch them.

Valparaiso player of the game: Newman - He continued his dominance of Region opponents, finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.

Lowell player of the game: Sophomore guard Chris Mantis - He had 27 points to pace the Red Devils.

Quote: “We had a stretch of five possessions where we shot a 3-pointer with a 20-point lead,” Coolman said. “Those are the type of things we talk about when we say ‘lack of focus.’ We didn’t need those during that stretch and that kind of opened the door back for (Lowell).”

Beyond the box score: Valparaiso has won three straight over Lowell.

Up next: Valparaiso (3-0) at Kankakee Valley, 7 p.m. Saturday; Portage at Lowell (3-2), 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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