The Valpo women's basketball team fell to the Saint Louis Billikens 78-56 in the season opener at Chaifetz Arena Sunday.
A whistle-friendly game only exacerbated the Crusaders' current depth issues. With Jessica Carr (Arcadia, Ind./Hamilton Heights), Elizabeth Hamlet (McBain, Mich./McBain [Oakland]), Sarah Godwin (Yardley, Pa./Princeton Day School), and Aliyah Isaac (Richton Park, Ill./Marian Catholic) relegated to spectator status because of injuries, the Crusaders' short bench proved costly.
Charae Richardson (Lafayette, Ind./Jeffereson [Vincennes]) scored 15 points, but drew her third foul less than seven minutes into the game. Sharon Karungi (Kampala, Uganda/[Northern Oklahoma College], who had a 23-point, 14-rebound debut in Valpo's exhibition opener, didn't factor into Sunday's tilt as she was called for her third foul with four minutes to go in the first half. She later fouled out with 11:25 to play. Karungi registered just one shot attempt and two rebounds.
"Sharon has to find a better way to respond to her frustration and it's my job to teach her how to do that," head coach Tracey Dorow said.
SLU opened the game on a 26-4 run as the shots failed to fall for the Brown and Gold. The Crusaders turned it around after the midway point of the first half. Richardson contributed five points on back-to-back Crusader possessions to make it a 28-11 game.
Sophomore Lexi Miller (Caledonia, Mich./Caledonia) scored eight of Valpo's last ten points of the first half. She was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in addition to dishing out three assists in the first 20 minutes.
The Billikens were aggressive on the boards, using ten offensive rebounds in the first half to create an 11-0 advantage in the second chance points department.
Valpo shot just 25.9% from the floor in the first half including 1-of-10 from beyond the arc as they trailed Saint Louis 39-21.
"We played with a defeated attitude the first ten minutes. We have to be focused from the very beginning. We have limitations, but so does every other team," Dorow said.
Liz Horton (Cannelburg, Ind./Barr-Reeve) turned it on the second half, scoring all nine of her points after the break. Horton was 3-of-6 from the field and converted on both free-throw attempts as well as collecting seven rebounds. Her jumper just a little more than four minutes into the second half brought Valpo to within 14.
But freshman Erin Nelson gave the Billikens breathing room as she recorded 19 points and seven boards. The local product led all scorers as Saint Louis hung on to win 78-56.
Sophomore Abby Dean (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) matched a career high with 11 points. She also tallied six rebounds.
Saint Louis forced 22 Valparaiso turnovers overall.
An area of strength, the Crusaders shot 15-of-18 from the free-throw line.
Valpo (0-1) returns to the court Tuesday evening in Champaign when the Crusaders face the Fighting Illini (0-1) at 7 p.m.