Valparaiso's defense forced 15 first half turnovers and limited Northwestern to just 19.5% shooting from the floor in the second half as the Crusaders posted a 57-51 victory over the Wildcats at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Wednesday evening.
The Crusaders' victory was the third all-time for the Brown and Gold against a school from the Big Ten and marked the first time the two schools have ever met each other on the hardwood.
Northwestern jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead and led by as many as seven, 23-16, after a Sara Stutz three-pointer with 8:41 left in the first half. The Crusaders went on an 8-0 run in less than two minutes, keyed by triples from Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) and Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) and took the lead after Krystal Taylor (Minneapolis, Minn./North H.S.) sank two free throws.
The lead bounced back and fourth before halftime, but the Crusaders took a 30-29 lead into intermission despite Northwestern shooting 57.9% in the first half.
Valpo's defense limited the Wildcats to just one field goal in their first 13 attempts of the second half while extending the lead to eight, 45-37, with 11:02 to play in the game. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) conventional three-point play made it ten, 50-40, with 8:24 left, but that would be the Brown and Gold's field goal of the game.
Northwestern closed to within three, 50-47, after Julie Bielawski's jumper as Valpo went more than six minutes without scoring. Rietema made four free throws down the strech as the Crusaders hit six in the final 2:01 to secure the victory though.
Braun led the Crusaders with her third double-double of the season and 11th of her career with 18 points and ten rebounds, while adding four blocks. She went 7-of-15 from the floor. Rietema added 12 points and nine boards while Myers was the third Valpo player to tally double figures with 11 points.
A.J. Glasauer led Northwestern (2-2) with 13 points while Melissa Miller added ten points and 13 boards. Valpo limited Ifeoma Okonkwo to just six points on 3-of-7 shooting after she came into the game averaging 23.0 points per contest, ranking second in the Big Ten.
Valpo finished the game shooting just 32.2% from the floor but committed only 15 turnovers, including just five in the second half. The Crusader defense held Northwestern to 31.7% from the field and forced 20 Wildcat turnovers.
Northwestern outrebounded Valpo 49-41 but Valpo held a 20-12 advantage in the paint and a 12-6 margin on second chance points.
In the last seven seasons, the Crusaders have now defeated opponents from the Big Ten (three times, also Michigan in 2001-2002 and Indiana in 1999-2000), Pac-10 (Washington State, 2004-2005), Western Athletic Conference (Fresno State, 2002-2003), Atlantic Coast Conference (Wake Forest, 2001-2002)
Valparaiso (3-2) will continue its tough non-conference schedule on Sunday afternoon at the State Farm Hoosier Classic in Muncie, Ind. The Crusaders will face Ball State (5-0) at 3:30 p.m. CST. WVUR (95.1-FM) and www.valpo.edu/athletics will carry all of the action live with the pregame beginning at 3 p.m.