Valparaiso hung around with #10/7 Purdue until the final horn, but in the end, dropped a 68-57 decision to the Boilermakers at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Wednesday evening.
The Crusaders trailed by just four at halftime, but Purdue (5-1) scored the first nine points of the second half to begin to pull away. Four points each by Shereka Wright and Emily Heikes put Purdue up 41-28 at the 16:52 mark.
Valpo clawed back, closing the gap to eight twice midway through the half, the second time after a pair of free throws by Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.). Wright then answered with a three, and Valpo missed seven straight shots from the floor, and committed two turnovers in a 3:59 span as the Boilermakers went on an 8-0 run push the lead to 16, 58-42.
A late 6-0 spurt by the Brown and Gold, capped off by a Baugher lay-in, tied cut the lead to eight, 62-54 with 1:49 remaining, but that was as close as Valpo would get the rest of the way.
Valpo started the game off strong, taking an early 9-3 lead in the game's first four minutes as Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) scored the first five of the contest. Purdue answered with seven straight points of its own and the lead changed hands several times before being tied at 15 at the 9:50 mark.
The Boilermakers scored nine straight at that point to take a 21-15 lead, but Valpo kept hanging around, closing the lead to within two, 23-21 and eventually going into the locker down four 32-28.
Wright led all scorers with 18 points while Katie Gearlds added 16 for the Boilermakers. Emily Heikes and Carol Duncan each grabbed nine rebounds.
Suzie Hammel (Lafayette, Ind./Lebanon H.S.) led a trio of Crusaders in double-figures with 15 points, while freshman Betsy Reitema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian H.S.) added a career high 13 off of the bench. Baugher chipped in ten. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) led Valpo on the boards with seven, while Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) tied a career high with nine assists.
Valpo shot just 37.3% from the floor, while Purdue hit 45.5% of its shots. The Crusaders forced 16 Boilermaker turnovers, while committing just 12 of their own. Purdue made ten more free throws (19-of-26) than Valpo (9-of-17) and held a 43-34 advantage on the glass.
The Crusaders will return to action on Saturday afternoon when Valparaiso (2-4) hosts the Hoosier State Classic. Valpo will faces Butler in the second game at 3:30 p.m., while Ball State plays Indiana State at 1 p.m. at the ARC.