Ashley Timmerman (Pontiac, Ill./Pontiac H.S.) tallied a season-high 14 points, making four three-pointers, but Valparaiso was unable to overcome three UIC players in double figures on Saturday night, falling to the Flames 54-43 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Ill.
The Crusaders fell behind from the opening possession and were never able to take the lead in the contest.
“They are a very good team,” head coach Keith Freeman said afterwards. “They are senior oriented and get to loose balls. They are very skilled and make it hard to pass when you’re on offense.”
UIC scored on three of its first four offensive trips of the game to jump out to a seven point lead. The Crusaders made just one of their first 11 shots from the floor as the Flames’ advantage grew to 14-2 nine minutes into the contest.
Timmerman scored eight of Valpo’s next 11 points to help the Crusaders claw back into the contest. A Tabitha Gerardot (Fort Wayne, Ind./Canterbury H.S.) put back brought the Brown and Gold within four, 19-15.
The Flames held Valpo scoreless the final 5:57 of the stanza though and finished the half on a 9-0 run to take a 28-15 lead into the locker room.
The Crusaders shot just 25% (6-of-24) from the floor in the opening stanza.
UIC hit a triple to open the second half before Timmerman drained a triple to end Valpo’s eight minute scoring drought spanning both halves.
A 10-0 Flame run gave the hosts their largest lead of the game, 41-19, with 14 minutes to play before the Crusaders tried to claw back.
A 9-2 Valpo spurt, including seven straight points from Ashley Varner (South Bend, Ind./Washington H.S.) pulled the Brown and Gold within 15. After the Flames’ lead went to back to 18, Valpo continued to fight. A Timmerman three pulled the Crusaders to within 13, 48-35, with just under five minutes to play.
“Timmy kept us in the game tonight,” Freeman added. “I thought we got popped in the mouth in the first half. In the second half we toughened up.”
Valpo could not get any closer than 13 until the final seconds though when Gina Lange (Wyoming, Minn./Forest Lake H.S.) scored inside for the game’s final margin.
“We played hard the entire game,” Freeman stated. “It was completely different from Loyola. Our approach to playing was much better. I thought going into the game if we could hold them under 30 points both halves that’s a good job defensively and we did that. We just have trouble scoring.”
Jasmine Bailey led UIC (12-7, 5-3 Horizon) with 19 points and 13 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive end of the floor. Kiera Strickland added 16 points while Shamiea Green chipped in 14 for the Flames.
“Bailey’s a phenomenal player,” Freeman concluded. “She’s really developed herself as a player.”
Timmerman was the only Crusader to finish in double figures while Gerardot and Varner added eight points each. Varner also finished with 11 rebounds.
Valparaiso (5-13, 1-6) will return home to the Athletics-Recreation Center on Thursday evening as the Crusaders host Milwaukee. Tip-off is slated for 7:05 p.m.
Game Notes: Valpo leads the all-time series 19-16 but UIC has won five of the last six including three straight … Timmerman’s previous season high was 12 points in the last two games against Butler and Loyola (Chicago) … Laura Richards (Connersville, Ind./Connersville H.S.) had two assists and now has 248 for her career, passing Megan Newcomer (1996-2000) for 12th on the Crusaders’ all-time list.