The Valparaiso women's basketball team made sure head coach Tracey Dorow's debut on the Crusader sidelines would be one she would remember for a lifetime, as Valpo never trailed in defeating Big Ten foe Indiana 64-52 Friday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
"“I’m very proud of these young ladies,” said Dorow. “They just battled the entire time. It definitely wasn't pretty tonight, but we refocused at the half and we did a really nice job."
Nearly the first three minutes of the opening-night contest went by scoreless, with both sides struggling to find rhythm early on. Junior Tabitha Gerardot (Fort Wayne, Ind./Canterbury) finally broke the seal on the basket with a triple at the 17:02 mark, and just over 70 seconds later, freshman Jessi Wiedemann (Palatine, Ill./Fremd) knocked down a 3-pointer on the fast break for her first collegiate basket, giving the Crusaders a 6-0 edge over four minutes into the ballgame.
IU scored the next six points to tie the game briefly, but Valpo ran off 10 quick points over a stretch of less than two minutes to go ahead double figures at 16-6. Gerardot found junior Liz Horton (Cannelburg, Ind./Barr-Reeve) inside for a layup to start the spurt, and then Gerardot hit her second triple of the game on Valpo's next trip. Following a Hoosier miss, sophomore Shaquira Scott (Wilmette, Ill./Loyola Academy) grabbed the board and pulled up on the break for a fast-break basket, and Horton made it ten straight Crusader points with a 3-pointer at the 11:48 mark.
Indiana would slowly trim the deficit, eventually tying the game late in the opening period. After a basket with 26 seconds left moved the Hoosiers into a 29-29 tie, the Crusaders opted not to play for the last shot, instead running the ball right back up the court. Senior Laura Richards (Connersville, Ind./Connersville) found Scott for a fast-break layup to send Valpo into the locker room ahead 31-29.
A pair of seniors teamed up for the decisive Crusader run in the second half. Still leading by just two points at 39-37 with under 15 minutes to play, senior Gina Lange (Wyoming, Minn./Forest Lake) hit an innocuous mid-range jumper to push the lead back to four points. Two possessions later, Richards knocked down a wide open 3-pointer to make it 44-37 Crusaders, and following an IU miss, Lange converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to give Valpo another double-figure lead at 47-37.
The Crusader advantage never fell under six points the rest of the way, and they enjoyed a double-figure advantage for most of the remainder of the game. A 3-pointer by senior Ieva Jansone (Riga, Latvia/Agenskalna Gymnasium [Miles]) with 4:05 to play gave Valpo its largest lead at 58-45, and while the Hoosiers scored five straight to close within 58-50 with 2:53 remaining, Gerardot hit her third 3-pointer of the contest to slam the door as the Crusaders earned the win over the major-conference foe.
Scott led three Crusaders in double figures on Friday with 17 points, while Lange scored 12 and Gerardot added 11 points and seven rebounds. Richards filled up the stat sheet with five points and nine rebounds, while also tying her career high with eight assists. Valpo shot 47.1% (8-of-17) from behind the arc on the day and enjoyed a massive 41-29 rebounding edge over the Hoosiers.
"We made rebounding a focus all week, and we really did a nice job on the boards tonight," said Dorow.
Indiana (0-1) was led by Aulani Sinclair, who poured in a game-high 20 points, but no other Hoosier reached double figures. Milika Taufa added eight points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.
Valparaiso (1-0) closes out a brief two-game homestand to open the regular season next Wednesday, Nov. 14 as the Crusaders host Purdue Calumet at 7:05 p.m. The game can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and seen live on the Horizon League Network, with links to both, as well as live stats, available at www.valpoathletics.com.