Valparaiso used stifling defense and timely 3-point shooting from freshman Kelly Peller (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton) to defeat the defending NCAA Division II national champions from Grand Valley State, 50-45, Saturday afternoon at the ARC in the exhibition opener for the Crusaders.
The visiting Lakers were leading the Crusaders, 39-35, with 6:56 to play when Peller hit her first triple to cut the deficit to one. After a Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland) steal, Peller found herself open again and knocked down another triple to give Valpo a 41-39 edge.
But Peller's biggest shot would come with 1:16 to play. The Crusaders had been held scoreless for over four minutes and were hanging on to a one-point lead at 43-42. Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian) saw Peller open on the perimeter and dished the ball off to her for Peller's third 3-pointer of the game, giving Valpo its biggest lead of the game to that point at four points. The Brown and Gold would hit all four of its free-throw attempts down the stretch to close out Grand Valley State.
The game was a tight one throughout, as the final margin of victory marked the largest lead either team had all game. Neither team had more than a three-point lead throughout the first half, which ended with Valpo up 25-24. The early portions of the second half were more of the same, with Grand Valley State's greatest margin being the four points the Lakers were up before Peller started her long-range assault.
Peller led the Crusaders in scoring with her nine points, with Hochstetler close behind with eight points. Hochstetler also added team-high marks of three assists and two steals. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake) paced Valpo on the boards, pulling down seven rebounds, all on the defensive end.
Erika Ryskamp led Grand Valley State with a game-best 18 points, but hit just 5-of-15 shot attempts from the field. Ryskamp also tied for team-high honors with five rebounds and registered a game-high four steals.
Defense dominated the game, as Valpo shot just 36.7% from the field (18-of-49), while Grand Valley State shot just 35.4% (17-of-48). The Crusaders drained 6-of-14 3-point attempts to just 5-of-19 shooting from behind the arc for the Lakers. Both teams pulled down 32 rebounds.
Valparaiso returns to exhibition action at the ARC Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m., as the Crusaders host Saint Joseph's (Ind.). The regular season commences Friday night at Northwestern at 6:00 p.m. All of the Crusader action this season can be heard live on 95.1 FM, WVUR, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.