Trailing by seven at halftime, Valparaiso's bench scored 26 of the Crusaders' 37 second half points and tough defense allowed the Brown and Gold to rally for a 58-46 victory over Western Illinois on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) scored a career high 21 points, including 16 in the second half, while Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) added career best 13 points in the contest to pace the Crusaders.
Both teams started the game slow offensively, with Valpo holding just a 9-7 lead nine minutes into the contest. Western Illinois picked up the pace late in the first half, finishing the half on a 12-4 run to take a 28-21 advantage into the locker room.
The Crusaders shot just 27.6% over the first 20 minutes while allowing the Westerwinds to connect on 44% of their attempts.
Valpo's defense came out of halftime energized, not allowing their guest to score a field goal over the first 8:35 of the second half while cutting into the deficit. A 10-2 run, keyed by Hochstetler, allowed the Crusader to tie the game on her conventional three-point play and then take the lead 36-33 on her triple at the 10:24 mark .
After Western Illinois retied the game at 36, Valpo went on another 10-0 run, capped by a Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) bucket at the 5:33 mark. The Westerwinds cut the lead to six, 52-46, with 1:27 to play, but Valpo made six free throws in the final 1:09 to secure the victory. The Crusaders, the top free throw shooting team in the Mid-Continent Conference coming in, made 16-of-17 (94.1%) from the stripe for the game.
Hochstetler, who's previous career high was 16 points, was 7-of-11 from the floor, including a pair of triples, while making 5-of-5 from the line. Farris, who had a previous best of five points, went 4-of-5 from the floor and also grabbed four rebounds and dished out two assists. Rietema scored 11 points and added a team high nine rebounds.
Amanda Walker led Western Illinois (9-17, 5-7 Mid-Con) with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Gina Hugelier added 12 points while Stephanie Lovingood grabbed a game high 11 rebounds.
Valpo finished the game with just 11 turnovers while forcing 17 from the Westerwinds, including 12 in the second half. The Crusaders shot 52.4% in the second half while limiting Western Illinois to just 20.8%.
Valparaiso (16-10, 9-3) has now assured itself of its 16th winning season in the last 17 years with the victory, and continued to solidify the Crusaders in second place in the Mid-Continent Conference standings.
The Crusaders will return to the hardwood on Monday evening, stepping out of conference play to battle Chicago State. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.