Lakisha Freeman’s jumper with 19.8 seconds remaining gave 20th-ranked Purdue a two-point lead and the Boilermakers held on and survived Valparaiso’s upset bid, defeating the Crusaders 65-62 in front of 8,802 fans at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. on Monday night.
Valpo shot 64.7% (11-of-17) from three-point range and held the Boilermakers to just 34.6% shooting from the floor in the effort, as the Crusaders nearly defeated Purdue for the first time in school history. The Boilermakers also made 24 more free throws than the Crusaders, making 27-of-39 attempts to Valpo’s 3-of-3.
“I was very pleased where we came back from after our performance on Friday (a loss at Bowling Green),” head coach Keith Freeman said. “We played hard and with a lot of passion. I thought we handled the bad things that happened and that shows resilience on our part.”
Things started off well for Valpo as the Brown and Gold hit its first five three-point shots, building a 17-9 lead just six minutes into the contest. Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) hit a pair as four different players hit triples.
The offense went cold for an 8:03 stretch as the Boilermakers scored 11 straight points to take a 20-17 advantage. Hochstetler’s third triple of the game tied the contest at 20 with six minutes to play before intermission.
Purdue held a one-point advantage heading into the final two minutes when the Crusaders closed on a 10-4 run. Rashida Ray (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding H.S.) hit a three and Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) had a three-point play inside. Hochstetler then hit a 15-footer with five seconds remaining as Valpo took a 35-30 advantage over the hosts at halftime.
The Crusaders drained 8-of-11 (72.7%) three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes while committing just seven turnovers. Valpo’s defense forced six Purdue miscues, five on steals, and held the Boilermakers to 38.7% shooting in the first half.
Purdue scored the first nine points of the second half, seven of which came at the free throw line, before the Crusaders got a shot off in the stanza. Aimee Litka’s (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) three-pointer put Valpo back in front, 42-41, with 15:30 to play in the game after the Crusaders’ trailed by as many as four.
Ashley Varner (South Bend, Ind./Washington H.S.) scored inside with nine minutes to play to put the Crusaders in front by three, 53-50.
After Purdue retook the lead, Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) banked in a three-pointer as the shot clock wound down, and Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) drove to the lane to put the Crusaders back in front, 60-56 with 4:22 to play in the game.
The Boilermakers tied the game at 62 on a pair of free throws with 1:23 to play. Following a Valpo turnover, Freeman hit her game-winning shot from the left side. Valpo had a chance to tie, but Hochstetler’s miss from 18 feet fell short and Purdue earned the possession arrow on the tie-up on the rebound. Valpo fouled and FahKara Malone hit one of two free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining.
The Crusaders had one last chance to tie, but could not get a shot attempt off.
“I thought we got some good looks late that just didn’t go down,” Freeman added. “We don’t have the biggest team but we have big hearts.”
Hochstetler led four Valpo players in double figures with 17 points while Litka added 13 more. Kulaga and Ott each scored 10 points and Ott also led the Brown and Gold with seven rebounds.
Samantha Woods led Purdue (1-0) with 17 points and seven boards while Freeman added 16 more points.
Valparaiso (0-2) will continue its road trip on Friday as the Crusaders head to Cincinnati, Ohio to battle the University of Cincinnati. Tip-off against the Bearcats is set for 3 p.m. CST with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.