Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) scored a career high 26 points to lead four Crusaders in double-figures as Valparaiso defeated Southern Utah 73-63 on Saturday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
With the win, Valpo moves into sole possession of second place in the Mid-Continent Conference standings.
The Thunderbirds jumped out to a quick lead before Valpo scored six straight points midway through the first half to grab an 18-14 advantage. The Crusaders then took the lead for good, 28-25, as Suzie Hammel (Lafayette, Ind./Lebanon H.S.) drained a three-pointer to start an 8-0 Valpo outburst.
Behind 18 first half points from Stangler, who was 8-of-9 from the floor in the stanza, the Crusaders built a 43-34 halftime advantage.
The Brown and Gold then rattled off the first six points of the second half, and had the lead to 14, 51-37, before Southern Utah rallied. Twelve straight Thunderbird points, capped off by back-to-back lay-ins by Lacy Yates, closed SUU to within two at the 51-49 mark. Stangler then scored inside to snap an 8:18 scoring drought for Valpo.
The lead remained at two, 53-51, before Valpo reeled off 12 straight to build a comfortable advantage that the Crusaders would not relinquish. Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) scored six of her season-high 11 points during the run.
The Crusaders never let the lead fall below nine the rest of the way, improving to 10-8 on the season and 5-2 in the Mid-Continent Conference.
Hammel added 17 points for the Crusaders on the evening, while Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) added 11 points and six boards. Stangler grabbed a game-high eight rebounds to go along with her 26 points, while Bechtold and Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) each dished out six assists.
Casey Cooke led Southern Utah (12-5, 3-3 Mid-Con) with 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half. Yates added 11 points and seven rebounds, while Janis Beal chipped in ten points for the Thunderbirds.
Valpo shot 53.3% in the first half from the floor, but just 28.6% in the second stanza. The Crusaders outrebounded Southern Utah 38-32 and forced 23 T-Birds turnovers, while committing 18 of their own.
Valparaiso will continue its three-game homestand on Monday night, hosting Centenary at 7:05 p.m. at the Athletics-Recreation Center.