Valpo’s win no big deal to NIU

By Todd McMahon

It was another typical NIU-Valparaiso women’s basketball game Tuesday night, but this time the outcome had a new twist.

For the first time in 15 tries, the Crusaders were on the victory side against the Huskies after a 101-91 win before 623 at Valparaiso’s Athletic-Recreation Center.

NIU saw its record drop to 13-10 overall and 7-3 in the North Star Conference. Valparaiso improved to 15-8 and 5-4 in the conference.

After leading by three at halftime, 47-44, the Crusaders shot .593 from the floor in the second half to increase their margin and pull out the victory.

Debbie Bolen paced Valparaiso with a career-high 38 points. She hit 11-of-22 from the field and made 16-of-19 from the free throw line, including four free throws in the last 45 seconds of the game to seal the win.

Valparaiso made 26-of-30 from the charity stripe, including 17-of-19 in the second half. The Crusaders also hit 7-of-15 from three-point territory.

For NIU, Angela Lockett once again shined against the Crusaders. The sophomore bested her career-high of 31 points, which was against Valparaiso Jan. 21, with a team-high 32.

Lockett was 15-of-22 from the field and also finished with a game-high 12 rebounds in only 26 minutes of action.

Cindy Conner added 27 points and 10 rebounds, while E.C. Hill contributed 14 points and five assists.

“We knew it would be a tough game going on the road,” NIU head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said. “Their dream was to beat us, and tonight, that dream came true for them.

“We’re still not pressing the panic button. Out of all the losses we’ve had this year, this one is the least we’re worried about.”

After a tight contest for most of the night, Valparaiso used a 12-2 spurt at the end to pull away. Trailing 77-75, Michelle Mader (14 points) hit a bank shot and two free throws to put the Crusaders up for good, 79-77, with just over seven minutes remaining.

Lynda Kukla (17 points) nailed a three-pointer at 6:43 to make it 82-77. Conner followed with a jumper for the Huskies, but NIU would get no closer.

“We had a lot of poise in real adverse conditions,” Albright-Dieterle said. “All and all, the best news of the night is that all our conference games remaining are at home.

“This game was for pride (for Valparaiso). Next time, it means something.”

The next meeting between the two teams could be March 6 in the semifinals of the NSC Tournament. The Huskies stand in second place in the league, while the Crusaders are alone in third.

Next up for NIU is Illinois-Chicago tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Chick Evans Field House.