Women’s basketball: Valpo holds off NIU despite poor shooting
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent January 5, 2013 5:46PM
Valparaiso University's Gina Lange looks to pass around Northern Illinois' McKenzie Hoelmenn in the first half of their game in Valparaiso, Ind. Saturday January 5, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:49AM
VALPARAISO — Victories have been rare for Valparaiso’s women against Northern Illinois, partly because the former Mid-Continent Conference members haven’t met since 1994.
The visiting Huskies owned a commanding 19-1 advantage in the intermittent series, which dates back to 1963. But Valparaiso jumped out to an early 11-point advantage Saturday afternoon and never trailed in a 54-49 victory.
The Crusaders survived another anemic shooting performance (34.5 percent), mainly because Charae Richardson stashed 12 of her career-high 16 points in the second half, including back-to-back 3-pointers. She also punctuated the victory by sinking two free throws with seven seconds left.
“Coach has been getting on me a little about not shooting enough,” said the redshirt junior from Lafayette.
“She’s impossible to guard in a catch-and-release mode,” chimed in coach Tracey Dorow after VU improved to 5-8 in its final tuneup for Horizon League play. “She’s still not shooting enough.”
The Crusaders spoiled homecoming for Hobart’s Amanda Corral, who came in with a team-leading 12.9 average. Guarded by Laura Richards and limited to 27 minutes because of foul trouble, Corral managed just nine points.
“Fouls are something I’ve had a problem with,” Corral said. Even so, she has yet to foul out.
“She was definitely the focal point of our scouting report,” Dorow said. “Laura, Charae and even our post players were ready to guard her when they needed to step out. She still hit some tough shots, but we made her work hard for her points.”
Hard enough to snap Corral’s string of seven straight double-figure scoring efforts.
Richards is noted for risk-taking on defense, but reluctantly curbed her gambling instinct.
“They told me to play straight-up defense,” she said.
Satavia Taylor tried to compensate with 16 points, but the Huskies stumbled back to DeKalb with a 5-8 record.
Cheered on by a large Hobart contingent, Corral scored seven of NIU’s first 14 points, then was benched for the last eight minutes of the half with her second foul.
The Huskies made several runs after the intermission, cutting VU’s margin to 50-49 on Corral’s jumper. But Richards countered with two free throws with 27 seconds left to maintain a three-point cushion.
“We started out lethargic,” said coach Kathi Bennett, referring to NIU’s early 25-14 deficit. “They outhustled and outfought us.”
Shooting woes continue to plague the Crusaders, particularly from the arc. They’ve connected on less than 29 percent of their 3-pointers.
“We still find a way to win,” said a puzzled Dorow. “It shows you how gritty we are.”
Valparaiso opens conference play at home Saturday afternoon against Youngstown State.