The Valpo women's best whistle-to-whistle effort of the season went for naught Wednesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center as Akron pulled away late for an 85-74 win.
Sophomore Jasmyn Walker (Muskegon, Mich./Mona Shores) spearheaded the Crusaders with 17 points and six rebounds. Freshman Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich./McBain) amended her season watermark in points with 14, thanks in part to three treys.
The Brown and Gold led for the majority of the first half, averting a pesky, but familiar, first-quarter run.
Valpo enjoyed its largest edge of the game - nine points - in the final minute of the first quarter following a 1-for-2 trip to the line by Abby Dean (Carmel, Ind./Carmel).
Akron slowly but surely erased the margin in the second stanza.
Anita Brown erupted for eight points in a three-and-a-half minute span to turn a 28-24 deficit into a 31-28 advantage. Brown finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field and a 7-for-9 mark from the charity stripe.
Once the Zips captured the lead, they did not relinquish it the rest of the first half.
Dean and Amber Lindfors (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) made a pair of successful trips to the free-throw line in the final 80 seconds of the first half to keep it a one-possession game.
AU's Hannah Plybon nailed a big three-pointer at the end of the quarter to give the Zips a 42-37 halftime advantage.
The Crusaders shot 50% (14-28) from the floor in the first twenty minutes. Dean, Lindfors, and Hamlet each had eight points at the break. The noticeable disparity came in points off turnovers: Akron recorded 12 to Valpo's zero. The Zips turned the ball over just five times in the first half.
The game returned to an airtight state in the third quarter. Akron seized a six-point lead for just over a minute of the period, but the other nine remained a one-possession tilt.
Walker and Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/George Washington) propelled the offense, combining for the Brown and Gold's first seven points. Freshman Hannah Schaub (Brooklyn Park, Minn./Park Center) knocked down a clutch three-pointer at the six-minute mark to bring the game to a 48-48 deadlock. A minute later, she hit a runner in the lane that put the Crusaders on top, 51-50.
But just as it appeared the tide was turning the Crusaders' way, Brown and Plybon went back to work. The two recorded 11 of the Zips' final 14 points of the third quarter. Akron commandeered a 64-60 advantage heading into the fourth.
The visitors capitalized on a pair of Valpo turnovers and a missed layup early in the final period as the Crusaders found themselves behind 69-60 after a minute-and-a-half of fourth-quarter play.
Valpo was never able to shrink the deficit to fewer than seven points in large part because of Akron's excellent free-throw shooting down the stretch. The Zips had a 22-for-27 (81.5%) showing from the line Wednesday night as they held on for an 85-74 win.
Walker's 17 points represented her highest offensive output since Feb. 28th of last season. Furthermore, she added six rebounds and a career-high four assists.
Franklin finished in double figures for the third time this season. The sophomore was 5-for-8 from the field en route to 11 points. Lindfors, Dean, and Haylee Thompson (Hailey, Idaho/Wood River [Utah State]) tossed in eight points each.
Schaub distributed five assists opposite one turnover while snagging four steals on the defensive end.
Valpo (1-7) will cap off an action-packed week Saturday night at the ARC. The Crusaders will host IU-Northwest (8-4) at 7:00 pm CT. WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will carry audio coverage while video will be available on ESPN3. The links to both, as well as live stats, are available at ValpoAthletics.com.