Valparaiso started the game off cold from the floor and never really warmed up as the Crusaders dropped their Mid-Continent Conference opener to Western Illinois 50-43 on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Valpo missed 11 of its first 12 shots over the first seven minutes but trailed by just three, 9-6 after Suzie Hammel (Lafayette, Ind./Lebanon H.S.) drained a three-pointer. Western Illinois built the lead up to eight, 15-7, midway through the half after a Becky Tyo lay-up.
The Brown and Gold fought back, closing to within one, 17-16, after a pair of Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) free throws, but would not get any closer the rest of the way. Western scored the next six points and eventually took a 29-21 lead into the locker room.
Valpo shot just 18.5% from the floor in the opening half on 5-of-27 shooting, compared with the Westerwinds 44.0% (11-of-25).
The Crusaders committed turnovers on the first three possessions of the second half as the Westerwinds built a 15 point lead, 38-23, the game's largest margin, with 17:10 left.
Valpo scored six straight points midway through the stanza to close within eight, 42-34, at the 9:39 mark, but could not get much closer.
Hammel led all scorers with 15 points for the game for Valpo. Becky Tyo led Western Illinois (9-5, 1-0 Mid-Con) with 14 points, while Tugba Palazoglu added ten.
Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) grabbed a career high nine rebounds for the Brown and Gold, while Zane Teilane led Western Illinois with eight boards and five blocks.
For the game Valpo (7-7, 0-1) shot just 25.5% (14-of-55), while the Westerwinds knocked down 20-of-48 shots (41.7%). The Crusaders were just 2-of-17 (11.8%) from three-point range as well.
The Crusaders will have a week off before returning to the court next Saturday afternoon as the Brown and Gold host Chicago State in a 2:05 p.m. contest.