Valparaiso shot just 22.2% from three-point range and could not overcome a 13-point second half deficit on Thursday night as the Crusaders saw their 11-game home court winning streak come to an end, falling to Milwaukee 68-62 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Crusaders hit their first two triples of the game, but managed just two more the rest of the way in the loss.
The Panthers jumped out to an 11-point halftime advantage, 40-31. Valpo cut into the lead on back-to-back baskets by Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) and Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.). After Valpo had three more chances to cut the lead further than five, Milwaukee went on an 8-0 run to build a 48-35 lead with 15:03 to play.
Valpo tried clawing back, getting the deficit to five, 53-48 at the nine-minute mark. Milwaukee pushed the lead back to eight, before Valpo tried fighting back again. A Litka lay-in with 4:47 left cut the lead to four, 58-54, but the Crusaders failed to convert again on the next two possessions after getting defensive stops, and saw the Panther lead go back to eight.
The Crusaders could not get the deficit back below six the rest of the way.
Likta led Valpo with 17 points and six rebounds while Kulaga added 15 points and six boards. Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) tied her season high with 14 points while Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) added 12 more.
“I continue to be impressed with Aimee Litka,” Valpo head coach Keith Freeman said. “Her consistency is good game after game on both ends of the floor.”
Aubri Rote led Milwaukee (9-7, 4-1 Horizon) with 21 points, including five three-pointers. The Crusaders held the Horizon League’s leading scorer, Traci Edwards, to just 14 points, nearly six below her season average and nine below her conference mark.
“I thought we did a great job on Edwards, and that’s a good thing,” Freeman said. “We didn’t do a good job on Rote though. She hurt us significantly more than her season average. I have a real issue with her being so open.”
Valpo shot just 38.7% from the floor, though, including 4-of-18 from three-point range. Milwaukee shot 47.8% to overcome 26 turnovers.
“We missed a lot of lay-ups,” Freeman added. “We’ve got to finish those.”
Valparaiso (7-8, 2-2) returns to action on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders face Green Bay at the ARC on “Pack the House Day.” Tip-off is set for 1:35 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game can also be seen online on the Horizon League Network.