Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) scored a career-high 28 points, including six three-pointers, none bigger than a triple with 37.1 seconds remaining, as Valparaiso earned its first road win of the season and remained undefeated in the Horizon League with a 71-63 victory over UIC in Chicago, Ill. on Thursday night.
The Crusaders, winners of six of the last seven, handed the Flames their first loss of the season at the UIC Pavilion as well.
Litka’s triple put Valpo in front 68-63 after UIC cut a 17-point Valpo advantage down to two with a minute to play. The junior finished 9-of-13 from the floor, including 6-of-8 from long range. She also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, just missing her first career double-double. “I thought Aimee was just outstanding shooting the ball as well as rebounding,” head coach Keith Freeman said following the game. “We were fortunate to shoot as well as we did from three-point range in the second half.”
Valpo made 8-of-13 triples in the second half and 13-of-23 (56.5%) for the game.
Litka took control of the first half for the Crusaders. She scored 13 consecutive Brown and Gold points over a seven minute span. She helped Valpo take an early 12-4 lead and then, after the Flames tied the contest at 12, hit her third triple of the stanza to put the Crusaders back in front.
The two schools then traded baskets for most of the remainder of the opening half, with a Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) lay-in with three seconds remaining giving Valpo a 35-34 lead at the break.
Litka finished the first half with 17 points, making 5-of-7 from the floor, including all three triple attempts for Valpo. UIC utilized eight offensive rebounds to keep the game close, while shooting 36.1% for the opening 20 minutes.
A three-point barrage by the Crusaders to begin the second half gave Valpo a double digit lead less than more than four minutes into the period. Litka hit two straight and Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S) and Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) followed with treys of their own as the Crusaders began the period on a 14-2 run. Two more Hochstetler triples pushed the lead to 55-38 at the 13:39 mark.
UIC answered with four threes of its own over a two minute span, two each by Shanice Sadler and Taylor Manley, to cut the Valpo advantage to nine, 59-50, with 11 minutes remaining.
An old-fashioned three-point play by Jessica Miller brought the Flames within five with 9:11 to play. Valpo answered with a three by Farris, and eventually pushed the lead back to 10 with five minutes to play.
Manley continued to hit threes for UIC in the second half, her fourth of the stanza and sixth of the game coming with 1:10 to play to cut the Valpo advantage to 65-63, setting up Litka’s triple down the stretch. The Crusaders added free throws to seal the victory.
Valpo made 13-of-15 (86.7%) from the line on the game, including all four in the final minute.
Hochstetler finished the game with 15 points, including four threes, and dished out seven assists. Farris added 11 points while Ott had 10 more as Valpo had four players in double figures.
Manley led UIC (4-10, 0-3 Horizon) with 18 points while Sadler added 12 more. UIC outrebounded Valpo 52-45, including a 21-8 edge on the offensive glass.
“Every win in the league is a big one,” Freeman said. “You have to be ready to play every night. We didn’t play with as much energy as I would have liked on defense, but we were able to pull out the win. We need to continue to work on our weaknesses though, especially rebounding.”
Valparaiso (7-6, 2-0) will return to Chicago on Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. contest against Loyola. The game will be carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game can also be seen on the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.