Valparaiso saw its five-game winning streak come to an end on Monday evening as Oakland handed the Crusaders their first Mid-Continent Conference loss of the season 63-57 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Valparaiso was cold from three-point range going just 5-of-22 (22.7%), a place they ranked eighth in the nation shooting 40.1% coming into the contest. Until hitting two in the final 2:40 of the game the Crusaders were just 15% on the night.
The Crusaders struggled from the start, missing their first five shots and committing three turnovers as the Golden Grizzlies jumped out to an 8-0 lead. Valpo fought back with a 12-2 run midway through the half, taking its first lead of the contest 14-13 on an Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph's H.S.) lay-in at the 10:27 mark.
Valpo trailed by just one late in the half when a Joya Puryear jumper and a Hanna Reising triple as time ran out put Oakland up 30-24 at the break.
The run continued to start the second half as a conventional three-point play followed by a three-point basket extended the run to 14-0 over the two halves and put the Golden Grizzlies in front 41-26 just 2:48 into the stanza.
Valpo clawed back to within nine, 45-36, with 12:37 to play following a Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) three, but within five minutes the lead was back to 14.
One last late run, as Valpo reeled off seven straight points, closed the gap to four, 58-54, with 1:16 to play, but the Golden Grizzlies made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.
Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) led Valpo with 12 points and six rebounds while Myers added 11 on three triples. Litka and Krystal Taylor (Minneapolis, Minn./North H.S.) each tied for team-high honors with seven rebounds, career highs for both.
Jessica Pike led Oakland (6-10, 2-1 Mid-Con) with 16 points and seven boards while Nicole Piggott had 12 points and Riikka Terava added 10 more.
Valparaiso shot just 38.2% from the floor and were outrebounded 40-33.
The Crusaders will return to the hardwood on Saturday afternoon to begin a four-game road trip at Western Illinois. Tip-off against the Westerwinds in Macomb, Ill. is set for 4 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.