The Valparaiso women's basketball team led by 11 in the first half against Saint Louis before going cold from the field, and a furious late rally came up just short as the Crusaders fell by a 53-47 final to the Billikens Saturday afternoon at the ARC.
“I thought we came out and played strong at the start of the game,” said Crusader head coach Tracey Dorow. “We had lots of energy and really rebounded the ball well in the first half. The second half, I didn't think we rebounded as well and we also had costly turnovers. Saint Louis scored 21 points off turnovers, which tells us something about how we need to do a better job taking care of the ball.”
The Crusaders scored on three of their first four possessions to lead throughout the first half. Junior Tabitha Gerardot (Fort Wayne, Ind./Canterbury) came up with an offensive rebound and putback on Valpo's first trip, followed by outside jumpers from senior Gina Lange (Wyoming, Minn./Forest Lake) and redshirt junior Charae Richardson (Lafayette, Ind./Jefferson [Vincennes]) to lead 6-0 just over three minutes into the game.
Saint Louis scored the next two baskets to close to within two at 6-4, but Valpo responded with six straight, including a pair of baskets from sophomore Shaquira Scott (Wilmette, Ill./Loyola Academy) and a fast-break bucket by junior Liz Horton (Cannelburg, Ind./Barr-Reeve), to push the lead to eight points. Later in the half, Gerardot connected on a triple to make it a double-digit Valpo lead at 17-7 with 10:33 remaining in the half, and just over two minutes later, a 3-pointer from freshman Abby Dean (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) gave the Crusaders their largest advantage at 22-11 with 8:14 to play.
Valpo scored just two baskets the remainder of the half, but its defense helped maintain the lead, as a jumper from Horton capped the Crusaders' first-half scoring with a 27-16 edge with 3:29 to go. Saint Louis scored the final six points of the half, however, to close to within 27-22 at the break.
Despite scoring just nine points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Crusaders were tied with 10 minutes to go, as Saint Louis scored just 14 points over the same stretch as the teams were knotted up at 36-all. But the Billikens recorded a 13-3 run over the next 6:30 to seemingly take control, as Valpo trailed 49-39 at the final media timeout.
But the Crusaders had one final rally in them. Out of the final media break, Gerardot ran down a miss and knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to seven points. Valpo then got a stop, and Gerardot converted a fast-break layup to make it 49-44. The Billikens then committed an over-and-back violation, which the Crusaders converted to three points courtesy of a triple by Richardson as Valpo suddenly trailed by just two at 49-47 with 1:50 to play.
But Saint Louis got a huge basket with the shot clock running down on its next trip, as Lorreal Jones connected on a deep two-pointer to push its lead back to four points. The Crusaders had chances to make one more push down the stretch, as the Billikens missed the front end of three one-and-ones, but Valpo went 0-for-3 from the field and 0-for-4 from the line over the final 70 seconds.
Gerardot was the only Crusader to finish in double figures, ending the afternoon with 12 points and nine rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass. Richardson and Scott added seven points apiece, the former also grabbing six rebounds. Valpo shot just 37% (20-of-54) from the floor, including just 8-of-26 (30.8%) over the final 20 minutes, and was just 2-of-8 from the free throw line.
Saint Louis (3-4) got 15 points apiece from Jones and Courtney Webb, while Mallory Eggert tallied a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Jacy Bradley handed out eight assists and Desirae Ball came up with five steals.
“Give Saint Louis credit, their post players never stropped working to get open, and they were able to attack us through the post,” said Dorow. “Unfortunately we didn't do the same thing on our offensive end – we need to do a better job at entering the ball to the post when it's open.”
Valparaiso (2-5) plays its next four games on the road, starting Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. CT at IPFW. The game can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.