Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) had her first career double-double, but it was not enough as Youngstown State rallied from a nine-point second half deficit to defeat Valparaiso 92-79 on Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Litka scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, including 11 second half boards.
Leading 46-44 at halftime, the Crusaders used a 12-2 run early in the second half to build a 58-49 advantage with 16:35 to play in the game following a lay-in by Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.).
The Penguins fought back, using a 15-1 run over their own over four minutes to build a 66-61 lead at the 11:32 mark following one of four Valissa Vaughn three-pointers for the night. Youngstown State’s lead grew to 10, 80-70, with 6:24 to play before the Crusaders made one last run.
Litka hit two free throws followed by a triple, and Kulaga added a jumper with 4:03 left to cut the deficit to three. The Crusaders would miss their next seven shots from the floor, though, and an 8-0 run by the Penguins put the game out of reach.
“We were up nine and gave up some easy shot,” Valpo head coach Keith Freeman said.
The first half was tight throughout, with seven ties and five lead changes occurring during the first 20 minutes. Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) scored all 13 of her points during the stanza while dishing out seven of her career-high nine assists.
Heather Karner kept Youngstown State kept the Penguins close with 14 first half points, including four treys. She finished the night with a game-high 21 points.
Youngstown State, a 29.9% three-point shooting team entering the game, hit 14 threes, nine more than their season average, connecting on 43.8% of her shots from beyond the arc.
“Hats off to Youngstown,” Freeman said. “They shot the ball extremely well. They hurt us on the perimeter and hurt us inside.”
Valpo shot 51.5% from the floor in the first half, but made just 30.8% of their attempts in the final 20 minutes. Kulaga led Valpo with 19 points while Kelly Peller (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) added a career-high nine points for the Crusaders.
Tiara Scott scored 20 points for Youngstown State (10-9, 5-3 Horizon League) while Vaughn added 16. Jessica Schloemp had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Valparaiso (9-10, 4-4) will look to rebound on Saturday afternoon as Cleveland State visits the ARC. 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 live on the Horizon League Network.