Valparaiso got 21 points from Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) and 15 more from Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) as the Crusaders picked up their first victory of the 2006-2007 season on Friday night, defeating Northern Arizona 62-56 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Crusaders shot 55% from the field in the second half and withstood several Lumberjack rallies to overcome 20 turnovers for the game. Northern Arizona participated in the NCAA Tournament in 2006.
The Lumberjacks jumped out to an early 9-2 lead and maintained an advantage throughout the first half. With Northern Arizona in front 18-14 with 5:17 remaining in the opening half, Valpo went on a 12-0 run to take a 26-18 edge into the break. The Crusader defense held the Lumberjacks without a field goal for the final 7:13 of the half.
Northern Arizona cut the lead down to two, 28-26, less than four minutes into the second half, something the Lumberjacks would do several times in the second stanza. Every time Valpo had an answer. Rietema, who scored 17 of her 21 in the second half, did her work getting to the free throw line. The sophomore finished the night 10-of-14 from the charity stripe, including 8-of-10 in the second half to stave off Northern Arizona rallies.
The Lumberjacks made their final push with 1:51 to play, closing again within two. Valpo made six free throws down the stretch to seal the victory though.
Rietema moved into 14th place on Valpo's career scoring list with her effort. The senior now has 898 career points. She also had a team-high eight rebounds for the Crusaders, as the Brown and Gold held a 37-36 edge on the glass.
Braun also moved into the top-20 all-time in scoring as she now has 824 points in four years. In addition, with three blocks this evening, the senior moved into seventh place in Mid-Continent Conference history with 146 rejections.
Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) dished out a career-high four assists to lead the Brown and Gold.
Sade Cunningham and Kim Winkfield each led Northern Arizona (1-2) with 10 points while Laura Dinkins had a game-high 10 rebounds for the Lumberjacks.
Valpo's defense forced 18 turnovers while holding Northern Arizona to just 31.6% shooting from the field.
Valparaiso (1-2) will return to the road on Wednesday evening as the Crusaders head to Akron, Ohio to battle the Zips of Akron. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CST with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.