After a ten-day layoff, Valparaiso returned to action Wednesday afternoon and, after starting slow, hung with the #11 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame before falling 58-50 on the road.
Valpo's offense struggled early, enabling Notre Dame to jump out to a 12-2 lead. Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) hit a three-pointer from up top to end the Fighting Irish run of ten straight points at the 11:51 mark.
Valpo got within five, 14-9, before the hosts shooting took over. Notre Dame shot 56% from the floor in the first half and built a 30-18 lead at the intermission. Valpo made just 8-of-25 (32%) and committed nine turnovers in the opening stanza.
Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) scored the final nine points of the first half for the Brown and Gold to lead the Crusaders at the break. Lindsay Schrader had nine on 4-of-5 shooting at intermission for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame scored the first five points of the second half as the lead swelled to 17. Back-to-back three-pointers by Bechtold and Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) helped cut into the lead. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) then scored inside and was fouled to cut it to 39-29 with 14:55 to play.
Notre Dame answered with a couple of quick baskets to push the lead back to 14. The Crusaders went into an offensive lull after the run, making just one field goal in nine and a half minutes. Valpo made just five of its first 17 shots after intermission.
The lead remained between 14 and 17 throughout the second half. Braun scored inside and again was fouled with 2:45 left to cut it to 12. Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Lake Central H.S.) made a late three to cut the lead inside of ten, as the Crusaders finished the game on an 8-0 run.
Rietema led the Crusaders with 11 points while Braun added ten more. Kuikhoven chipped in eight in her second straight starting assignment.
Schrader led Notre Dame (9-1) with 13 points while Courtney LaVere and Melissa D'Amico each added ten.
Notre Dame finished the game shooting 50% compared with Valpo's 36% and outrebounded the Crusaders 37-22. Notre Dame held a 38-14 advantage scoring in the paint.
Valparaiso (5-5) will open Mid-Continent Conference action on Friday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center as the Crusaders entertain UMKC in a rematch of last year's Mid-Con Tournament quarterfinal game. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. All the action can be heard live at 95.1-FM (WVUR, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.