Despite being within three points at intermission, Valparaiso dropped an 82-59 decision to Cleveland State on Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Kailey Klein and Shawnita Garland combined for 46 Viking points and Cleveland State used a 31-12 second half run to break the game open.
The Crusaders hung close in the first half, shooting 48.1% from the floor while forcing nine Cleveland State turnovers to help offset 60% shooting by the visiting Vikings.
After trailing by as many as five in the opening half, a Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes H.S.) three-pointer at the 1:41 mark gave Valpo a 33-30 advantage, its largest lead of the game.
“We made a lot of shots in the first half,” head coach Keith Freeman said. “But we gave up 60% shooting, so would you say that is good defense?”
Cleveland State scored eight of the final 10 points of the stanza, including a jumper at the buzzer by Stephaine Crosley to take a 38-35 lead into the break.
The Vikings scored the first six points of the second half, increased the lead to 55-42 six minutes into the period. The lead extended to 67-48 with 9:37 to play, and slowly grew from there.
“We came out and played with a lack of energy in the first five minutes of the second half,” Freeman added. “I thought we were well rested as we substituted a lot in the first half.”
Garland finished the game 10-of-13 from the floor while Klein made 12-of-14 from the free throw line.
“Kailey Klein is the best player in the league,” Freeman concluded. “She is incredibly difficult to guard. She moves so well.”
Lauren Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville H.S.) and Ashley Varner (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) led Valpo with 11 points each while Rashida Ray (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding H.S.) came off the bench to add nine points.
Cleveland State (12-11, 7-5 Horizon) outrebounded Valpo 38-26, and forced 18 Crusader turnovers, 12 coming in the second half.
Valparaiso (6-16, 3-8) will look to snap a four-game losing skid on Saturday afternoon, hosting Youngstown State The day is “Pack the House” and Pink Zone in support of the WBCA’s breast cancer initiative. at 1:35 p.m. at the ARC.