Valparaiso traveled to the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday evening and defeated Washington State 56-50 in Pullman, Wash.
Valpo, playing just its second Pac-10 team in school history, battled with the Cougars from the tip. Back-to-back baskets by Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.), the first a three-pointer, gave the Crusaders a 21-16 lead with 6:58 left in the half. Washington State cut the lead to one before Stangler extended the lead to 23-20, and Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) scored on a rebound to push the lead back to five. Valpo's defense hung tough, allowing just one field goal over the final 6:18, to take a 27-23 lead into the locker room.
Stangler made 5-of-6 from the floor in the first half, leading the way with 11 points. The effort marked the 11th straight game, including all nine this season, the senior has tallied double-figures. Valpo as a team shot 48% from the floor in the first half, while holding the Cougars to just 31% shooting, and forced ten turnovers in the opening stanza.
The Crusaders built on the lead out of intermission. Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) scored on a lay-in, and Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) scored inside to push the lead to eight. Washington State answered with a 10-1 run, capped by a Ariana Scales three-pointer that put the Cougars in front 33-32, with 13:52 remaining.
Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) answered for the Brown and Gold on the next possession, and Valpo never looked back. The basket started a 9-2 run, which was capped off by a Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) triple, pushing the lead to 41-35, with 10:35 left in the second.
Again, the hosts battled back. A Kate Benz jumper with 6:18 remaining cut the lead to 45-43, as the Crusaders went 3:48 without scoring. A Braun putback at the 4:32 mark snapped the draught, and gave Valpo a four-point lead. Emma Joneby answered at the 2:46 mark for the Cougars, giving Valpo just a two-point cushion. Gutowski drained a trey from the right wing at the 1:09 mark pushing the lead to 50-45. Benz scored underneath to bring Washington State within three. Gutowski made two free throws with 39.4 seconds left, before Adriane Ferguson banked in a three with 26.2 seconds left. Rietema and Braun both made a pair of free throws down the stretch as Valpo went 6-of-6 from the line in the final 40 seconds.
Stangler finished with 16 points, while Braun recorded a double-double with ten points and ten rebounds. The Crusader center also recorded four blocked shots off of the bench. Gutowski added 11 for the Brown and Gold.
Benz led Washington State (4-5) with 21 points and 15 rebounds, while Crystal Blue added 12 points.
Valpo held the Cougars to just 32% shooting, and forced 20 turnovers, while committing 12 of their own, including three in the second half.
Valparaiso (5-4) will return take eight days off for the holidays, before continuing its six-game road swing on December 29. The Crusaders will battle DePaul at 4 p.m. CST in Hanover, N.H. in the opening round of the Blue Sky Classic hosted by Dartmouth.