Cold shooting and turnovers put Valparaiso behind early and the Crusaders could not recover, dropping their season opener 64-45 to Northwestern on Friday night in Evanston, Ill.
Both teams started out cold from the floor, combining for just one field goal in their first 15 attempts over the opening five minutes. Northwestern then started to heat up slowly, building a 19-2 lead with 7:40 to play in the first half. Valpo continued to struggle, committing nine turnovers and shooting just 1-of-12 to begin the game.
Valpo then played even with the Wildcats for the remainder of the first half, and entered break trailing 28-13. The Crusaders shot just 23.8% (5-of-21) in the opening stanza, committing 13 miscues. Northwestern grabbed nine offensive boards in the first 20 minutes.
The Wildcats opened the second stanza with a 9-2 run to build a 37-15 lead with 17:19 to play. Valpo then slowly began to crawl back into the game. Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph's H.S.) hit a three-pointer with 11:50 to play as the Crusaders cut the deficit to 11, 41-30. Sanna Helenius (Vantaa, Finland/Makelanrinteen Lukio H.S.) then hit two free throws to cut the Wildcats' lead to single digits for the first time since 11-2.
A.J. Glasauer then hit back-to-back three-pointers as Northwestern pushed the lead back to 15, 47-32, with 9:15 remaining. Valpo could not get the deficit under 14 the rest of the way.
Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) led Valpo with 13 points, the only Crusader in double figures. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) grabbed eight rebounds.
Glasauer led all Wildcats with 17 points and seven assists, while not committing a turnover. Sara Stutz added 12 points.
Valparaiso finished the game shooting just 29.5% from the field, while committing 19 turnovers. Northwestern connected on 41.3% from the floor, including 53.6% in the second half and outrebounded the Crusaders 41-31, including 14-6 on the offensive end.
Valpo (0-1) returns to the hardwood on Wednesday evening as the Crusaders travel to Bloomington, Ind. to face another Big Ten foe. Tip-off against Indiana is set for 6 p.m. CST, with the game carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.