Valparaiso's second half rally fell short on Monday evening as the Crusaders headed to the Windy City and dropped a 53-50 decision to Chicago State.
The Crusaders, who trailed throughout the first 35 minutes of the game, led by five with less than a minute to play but the Cougars made plays down the stretch to had Valpo its second loss in Mid-Continent Conference play.
The loss marked the second straight loss and the third time in four seasons the Crusaders fell at the Dickens Center. This is the fifth time in the last six meetings between the schools the game has been decided by five points or less.
Valpo was cold from the floor in the first half and the shooting woes continued to start the second half as the Brown and Gold made just one field goal in the first six minutes. A three-pointer by Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) followed by a 16-foot jumper by the junior helped bring Valpo within one, 24-23, with 13 minutes to play. A fastbreak lay-in by Myers tied it at 25, as Myers 12 straight Crusader points.
After the team's traded baskets on three straight possessions, the Cougars then pushed the lead back to five, 38-33, moving into the final eight minutes. Valpo again clawed back, and a pair of free throws by Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) gave the Crusaders their first lead of the game, 41-40, with 4:44 to play.
Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) stepped up a buried a three from the top of the key with 3:18 left to put the Crusaders up 46-43. A basket in the lane by Rietema pushed the lead to five with 2:16 to go. Akilah Coston cut it to 48-45 with two minutes to go. Rietema put Valpo up five on a turnaround as the shot clock expired with 45.9 remaining.
Tina Hill answered by draining a triple with 33.5 left to make it 50-48. The Cougars fouled and Rietema missed the front end of the one-and-one. Coston was fouled on the rebound and made one of two but the Crusaders could not handle the rebound. Ayesha Neasley scored inside with 16.9 to play to put the Cougars up one.
Valpo came back down and Rietema missed a lay-in but a tie-up on the rebound, the tenth jump ball of the game, gave the Crusaders the possession. Rietema had another chance with 7.0 seconds left but missed the mark and the Cougars made free throws to seal the victory.
The Crusaders struggled offensively the entire first half. Valpo made just two of its first nine shot attempts from the floor in addition to committing four turnovers over the game's first eight minutes as the Cougars built an 10-4 lead.
While the offense had difficulty finding the bottom of the basket, it was the Crusader defense that kept the game close. Valpo held Chicago State scoreless for eight minutes and the game was tied at ten heading into the final four minutes of the first half.
The Cougars went on a 9-2 run near the end of the first half and took a 19-13 advantage into the locker room.
Valpo shot just 25% (6-of-24) in the first half, while committing eight turnovers. Chicago State did not shoot much better, connecting on just 8-of-25 (32%) while they committed seven miscues.
Myers led the Crusaders with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting while Rietema added 14. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) added nine points and six rebounds.
Wendi Walker led Chicago State (8-10, 3-4 Mid-Con) with 11 points while Neasley added ten points. Timberlake added nine points and nine rebounds while dishing out seven assists.
Valpo finished the game with 14 turnovers and shooting 40% while Chicago State connected on 41.2% and made just 11 mistakes.
Valparaiso (11-7, 5-2) will return to the hardwood on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders host Oakland. Tip-off is set for 2:05 p.m. with all the action beginning at 1:30 p.m. on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.