Valparaiso had five players score in double figures, but shot just 39.3% from the floor, losing a 76-70 decision to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee, Wis.
Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) was a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor, including four triples, on her way to tying her career high with 18 points while Sanna Helenius (Vantaa, Finland/Makelanrinteen Lukio H.S.) made all four of her shots in scoring a season-high 10 points for the Brown and Gold.
Valpo fought through the first half despite being saddled with foul trouble. Four players picked up two fouls in the opening 20 minutes, but the Crusaders were able to go into the locker room down just 36-32.
Valpo jumped in front 9-3 early behind a pair of triples by Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) and another by Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.). Milwaukee fought back, tying the game at 11. A 9-0 run by the Panthers put the hosts in front by five, 28-23, with 5:46 to play, before taking the four-point advantage, 36-32, into the break.
The Panthers opened the second half with a 10-2 run over the first 2:30 to build a 12-point advantage. Valpo fought back, and a three-pointer by Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) cut the deficit to six, 48-42, just a minute and a half later.
Milwaukee answered with a 10-0 run, holding the Crusaders scoreless for nearly six minutes while pushing the lead to 16, 60-44.
Back-to-back threes by Ott got Valpo back within single digits, 60-51, at the 8:44 mark. Milwaukee kept the Crusaders from getting any closer until the final seconds though, maintaining a 9-13 point lead most of the rest of the way. Valpo scored the game’s final seven points to cut the final margin to six points.
“Milwaukee did a great job keeping pressure on us,” head coach Keith Freeman said. “They did a good job of attacking.”
Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) added 12 points for the Crusaders while Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) and Kulaga had 10 points each.
Traci Edwards led Milwaukee (13-11, 8-5 Horizon League) with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Aubri Rote added 12 points.
The Panthers shot 51.1% from the floor and outrebounded the Crusaders 40-26, leading to a 15-2 edge in second chance points.
“We need to step up as a team and dig deeper,” Freeman said. “Our team defense is not where it needs to be.”
Valparaiso (11-13, 6-7) will begin its final homestand of the season on Thursday evening as the Crusaders host Detroit at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game can also been seen live on the Horizon League Network.