An 18-0 midway through the first half broke the game open for Valparaiso and the Crusaders limited UIC to just 27.1% shooting for the game on the way to a 76-46 victory over the Flames at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Saturday afternoon.
Leading 16-9 with 11:52 to play in the first half, the defense clamped down, not allowing UIC to score a field goal over the next six-and-a-half minutes while building a 26-point advantage. Sarah Ott’s (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) three-pointer with 2:05 remaining before half pushed the lead to 30 and the Crusaders took a 43-17 lead into the break.
“I thought the first 12 minutes were as good as we’ve been playing,” head coach Keith Freeman said. “We really played well defensively.”
UIC made just 5-of-28 (17.9%) shots in the opening half and Valpo got to the glass, outrebounding the Flames by 10 in the opening 20 minutes.
“They were shooting contested jump shots on offense and we were running with the ball and things were just clicking,” Freeman added. “We rebounded the ball well.”
UIC tried to make a run early in the second half, cutting Valpo’s lead to 19, 45-26, five minutes into the period. The Crusaders responded with a 20-5 run, pushing the lead to 65-31 at the 6:41 mark and never looked back on the way to moving back to the .500 mark on the season at 11-11.
Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) led Valpo with 15 pionts, scoring in double figures for the 20th time in 22 games this season. Katie Emig (Farmington Hills, Mich./Birmingham Marian H.S.) added a career-high 13 points while grabbing eight rebounds. The redshirt-freshman was 6-of-9 from the floor. Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) also added 11 points and had six assists for the Crusaders.
Taylor Manley led UIC (8-14, 4-7 Horizon) with 10 points.
Valpo got 33 points from its bench and outrebounded the Flames 48-39 for the game.
“We were able to defend and didn’t give them second shots,” Freeman said. “We really had good pressure on the ball. We showed some progress this week, especially with our defense.”
Valparaiso (11-11, 6-5) will return to action on Thursday evening as the Crusaders head to Green Bay, Wis. to face the Horizon League’s top team, Green Bay, in a 7:05 p.m. tip. All of the action can be seen on the Horizon League Network and will also be carried live online at www.sportsjuice.com.