Valparaiso cut a 16-point second half deficit to five on Tuesday evening, but ran out of time to complete the comeback, dropping its first game of the season 71-64 to Ball State at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind.
Ashley Varner (South Bend, Ind./Washington H.S.) just missed her second straight double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds while Lauren Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville H.S.) added 16 points, including 10 in the second half, to lead four Crusaders in double figures.
Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes H.S.) added 13 points for the Brown and Gold while Skyler Gick (Otterbein, Ind./Benton Central H.S.) tallied 10.
Valpo started the game slow from the floor, making just one of its first seven shots from the floor while committing five turnovers over the first six-and-a-half minutes of the game, falling behind 9-2. After closing to 16-12 on a triple by Adams, Ball State scored the next six points to take a 10-point advantage.
An Adams lay-in with 4:57 pulled Valpo back within six, but that would be as close as the Crusaders would get the rest of the half. The Cardinals extended the advantage to 11 before taking a 31-22 lead into the locker room.
Valpo shot just 26.5% (9-of-34) in the first half, including just 2-of-12 from long range. Ball State connected on 33% in the first half, and committed just five turnovers in the first 20 minutes while forcing eight Crusader miscues.
Ball State scored first to start the second half before Valpo made a run. Making five of its first seven shots from the floor, the Crusaders clawed to within three, 37-34, at the 16:25 mark. The Cardinals answered with a 16-6 run over the next five minutes, pushing the lead back to 13.
The lead grew back to 16, 59-43, with 8:37 to play before the Crusaders began their final comeback attempt. Using a full court press, Valpo limited Ball State to just one field goal the rest of the way, but the Cardinals made 10 free throws down the stretch.
The Crusaders still trailed by 14, 63-49, before Valpo scored eight straight points, including six by Varner, to pull within 63-57. Valpo got within five, 69-64, after Adams hit a triple with 11 seconds remaining, but could not get any closer.
Valpo finished the game shooting 35.8% from the floor after connecting on 45.5% in the second half, and committed just five second half turnovers. Ball State outrebounded the Crusader 46-41, and made 20 free throws in 27 attempts to Valpo’s 11-of-14 shooting at the charity stripe.
Danielle Gratton led Ball State (2-2) with 17 points while Audrey McDonald added 11 and Patrice King tallied 10 points. Emily Maggert had a game-high 14 boards.
Valparaiso (3-1) will have eight days off for the Thanksgiving holiday before returning to the hardwood on Wednesday, December 2 when the Crusaders head to the Windy City to battle Chicago State. Tip-off against the Cougars is set for 7 p.m.
Game Notes: Ball State leads the all-time series 9-5 … Valpo’s 3-1 start matches 1974-1975 team for the best four-game start in school history … Varner’s 14 points tie her career high set against Youngstown State last January … Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) had a season-high eight rebounds.