Valparaiso shot just 23.2% from the floor on Saturday afternoon, including 2-of-20 (10%) from three-point range, falling to Youngstown State 54-38 at the Beeghly Center in Youngstown, Ohio to close out the regular season.
“Hopefully we got the bad shooting game out of our system,” head coach Keith Freeman said. “We took some hurried shots early and then tried to over penetrate. We have to make shots.”
Valpo struggled shooting the basketball to open the game. The Crusaders went until the 12:24 mark without scoring until Lauren Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville H.S.) made a pair of free throws. By that time, Youngstown State had opened a 13-0 lead.
The Crusaders missed their first 13 shots from the floor, falling behind 18-2, before a Kenney lay-in at the 9:48 mark gave Valpo its first field goal. The Penguins had been getting to the boards as well, outrebounding the Crusaders 14-3 at that point.
Valpo used a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to single digits when Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes H.S.) drained a three-pointer at the 7:05 mark to make it 20-11.
The Penguins held the Crusaders scoreless the final 4:40 of the half, but managed just one basket during that time, and took a 27-15 lead into the locker room.
Valpo shot just 24% (6-of-25) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, including just 1-of-11 (9.1%) from long range. Youngstown State made 54.5% of its first half shots and outrebounded the Crusaders 20-10.
The second half was just as much of a struggle shooting, as the Crusaders started just 1-for-10 from the field. Valpo closed to within nine, 33-24, following a steal and score by Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) and a putback basket by Ashley Varner (South Bend, Ind./Washington H.S.).
Youngstown State answered with back-to-back triples by Camisha Alexander. Another triple by Kenya Middlebrooks made it 42-24 with 9:06 to play and the Crusaders could not recover.
Kenney led the Crusaders with 10 points while Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) had a game-high eight rebounds.
Alexander led Youngstown State (3-26, 1-17 Horizon) with 12 points, all on threes, while Nikita LaFleur had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Penguins shot 48% from the floor for the game and 41.2% (7-of-17) from three-point range.
“We’re one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation (13th) and they were shooting like 25% from there,” said Freeman. “They shoot 40% and we were 10%. The bottom line is we didn’t make open shots and we have to make open shots.”
Valparaiso (16-13, 10-8) will host the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship on Wednesday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders will be the tournament’s fourth seed and host fifth-seeded Wright State beginning at 7:05 p.m. The action can be send live on the Horizon League Network as well as on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso).
Game Notes: Youngstown State leads the all-time series 14-11 and is 8-3 in Youngstown … Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) played in her 117th game as a Crusader, tied with Carie Wickham (1996-2001) and Marlous Nieuwveen (1998-2002) for eighth all-time at Valpo.