Valparaiso opened its fifth season of Horizon League basketball on Wednesday evening, dropping a 58-42 game to Wright State at the Wright State Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio.
The Crusaders trailed by 12 points at half, but cut the deficit to two over the first six plus minutes of the second half. The Raiders hit three triples in a 1:08 span though to rebuild a double digit advantage and Valpo could not recover the rest of the way.
“The three threes and (Kim) Demming in transition hurt us in the second half,” head coach Keith Freeman said after the game. “We played really well defensively for the first seven minutes to get back into the game, but it took a lot out of us.”
Valpo struggled shooting the ball all evening long, connecting on just 28.8% of its attempts from the field.
In the first half, the Crusaders went nearly six minutes without a field goal over two separate stretches.
Jessica Carr’s (Arcadia, Ind./Hamilton Heights H.S.) triple ended a 6:20 drought at the 12:18 mark and pulled Valpo within 10-9.
Wright State, which scored 12 of its first 17 points in the paint, went on a late 8-0 run, keyed by a pair of threes from Courtney Boyd, pushed the lead to 14. Gina Lange’s (Wyoming, Minn./Forest Lake H.S.) eight foot jumper along the baseline ended a 5:54 scoreless skid for the Crusaders and made it 27-15 at the break.
“In the first half we really were not in synch offensively,” Freeman added. “We were not running at the pace we needed to.”
The Crusaders shot just 25% (6-of-24) in the first 20 minutes while also committing 11 turnovers.
Ashley Timmerman (Pontiac, Ill./Pontiac H.S.) scored the first five points of the second half for the Crusaders to begin the comeback bid. Lange followed with a three followed by a bucket off glass as Valpo scored the first 10 points of the stanza and pull within 27-25.
The Raiders missed their first 11 shots from the floor in the second half before Kim Demmings went coast-to-coast for a basket at the 13:07 mark.
Two Boyd threes sandwiched around a triple from KC Elkins over a three-possession span pushed the lead back to 12, 41-29, midway through the second half.
“Within a matter of a minute and eight seconds it went from three to 12 points and we did not have enough offensively to get back into it again,” Freeman said.
The Crusaders closed to within eight, 42-34, with eight minutes to play, but a 9-0 spurt over two-and-a-half minutes by Wright State pushed the lead to 17 and the hosts picked up the victory in the conference opener.
Lange led Valpo with 10 points and six rebounds while Timmerman, Carr, and Tabitha Gerardot (Fort Wayne, Ind./Canterbury H.S.) added eight points each.
Demmings led Wright State (8-4, 1-0 Horizon) with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half, and nine rebounds while Boyd and Molly Fox each added 12 points.
The Raiders outrebounded Valpo 48-28, including an 11-3 advantage on the offensive boards. The Crusaders did force 19 turnovers though, 11 on steals.
“They killed us inside, outscoring us 22-4,” Freeman concluded. “We did not get any easy shots around the basket and that is a credit to their defense.”
Valparaiso (4-8, 0-1) will conclude its conference-opening road trip on Saturday afternoon with a New Year’s Eve day clash against Detroit. Tip-off at Calihan Hall in the Motor City is set for 11 a.m. CST.
Game Notes: Valpo leads the all-time series 11-8 … the Crusaders are now 2-3 all-time in Horizon League openers, dropping the last three … Ieva Jansone (Riga, Latvia/Agenskalna Gymnasium H.S.) made her Crusader debut, playing 14 minutes and recording one assist and one steal … Laura Richards (Connersville, Ind./Connersville H.S.) had a career-high six steals and has 16 over her last three contests.