Valparaiso ended the nonconference portion of the schedule by displaying the same problem that has plagued the men's basketball team all season.
The Crusaders had yet another slow start on Sunday afternoon, falling behind by 21 points at the half to East Tennessee State and failing to make up the deficit in a 73-62 loss to the Buccaneers.
The loss gives Valparaiso an 8-7 record as Horizon League play begins Thursday when UIC comes to the Athletics-Recreation Center.
"We're young, but more than being young, we're inexperienced," Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. "Nobody on this team played in a Valpo uniform two years ago. That means we have a lot of teaching going on."
The Crusaders scored the first four points of the game, but then surrendered an 11-0 run to ETSU and never led again. Reserve Jalen Riley scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the first half to pace the Buccaneers.
"We played well for the first three minutes, but after that we really struggled in the first half," Drew said. "Having 18 turnovers by halftime was a big part of the problem."
Drew benched three of the starters at halftime, including newcomer Keith Carter, and the Crusaders whittled the 21-point deficit down to seven points on several occasions. Vashil Fernandez played all 20 minutes after the break and finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds for his first career double-double. Moussa Gueye didn't play again after six scoreless minutes in the first half.
"Several players had opportunities to contribute and I thought our group in the second half did a lot of good things," Drew said. "They deserved the right to go out and win or lose the game for us."
LaVonte Dority led the Crusaders with 14 points while Alec Peters added 13 points and nine rebounds.
"We had four or five 3-pointers that went halfway down and came out," Drew said. "Alec had several of those and who knows how the game goes if some of those shots go down. Alec was working hard out there and you can certainly never fault his effort."