Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) tied Valparaiso's career rebounding record with 772 career boards, but the Crusaders struggled offensively dropping a 56-49 decision on the road to Southern Utah on Saturday evening in Cedar City, Utah.
Braun's offensive board midway through the second half tied her with Sarrah Stricklett (1996-2000) on Valpo's all-time rebounding list. She also holds the career blocked shot records for the Crusaders with 178 rejections.
The first half was a series of runs by both teams. After Southern Utah scored on its first possession of the game, the Crusader defense kept the Thunderbird offense from scoring from the floor again during the first six-and-a-half minutes of the contest, building a 10-3 advantage.
Cash Connors scored eight straight points for the hosts to give Southern Utah its first lead of the game, 13-12, at the 11:33 mark of the opening half. Back-to-back triples by Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) and Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) put Valpo back in front.
A five minute scoring draught by the Crusaders allowed Southern Utah to go on another 8-0 run, putting the Thunderbirds back on top by three at the five minute mark. The Crusaders finished the half on a 9-2 run of their own, though, to take a 27-24 advantage into the locker room.
Five turnovers in the first five minutes of the second half prevented the Crusaders from extending the advantage, but the Valpo defense limited Southern Utah to just one field goal in their first eight attempts of the half. The Thunderbirds went on a 10-0 run to take a 36-30 lead as Valpo went more than eight-and-a-half minutes without scoring.
Southern Utah's lead remained between four and eight until Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph's H.S.) hit a triple with 4:17 to play to cut the deficit to 46-44. Litka hit another three to cut the lead to 50-48, and Valpo appeared to get a defensive stop until Julie Stradling hit an off-balance 23-foot three as the shot clock wound down with 1:31 to play. Valpo could not get any closer than four the rest of the way as Southern Utah made free throws to secure the win.
Litka led the Crusaders with 11 points in the loss while Myers added nine. Braun finished the game with 10 rebounds to lead all players. Valpo shot just 30% from the floor for the game and committed 16 turnovers, 11 in the second half.
Connors led Southern Utah (6-13, 3-3 Mid-Con) with 13 points, all in the second half, while Anne Westwood added 10 points. The Thunderbirds shot 38.5% from the floor and committed just 12 turnovers.
Valparaiso (11-9, 4-2) will conclude its four-game road trip on Monday evening as the Crusaders head to Kansas City, Mo. to battle UMKC. Tip-off against the Kangaroos is set for 7 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.