VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso women’s basketball team had barely unpacked their bags when they had to take the court against Youngstown State on Thursday night.
The Crusaders finally returned to campus Wednesday afternoon after being stuck in Tulsa, Okla. for five days following Saturday’s 14-point loss to the Golden Hurricane.
The travel delays may very well have been the reason behind Valparaiso’s sluggish play on Thursday night as the Crusaders had a stretch of nearly nine minutes without a basket in a 62-49 loss to the Penguins.
“I thought our players handled everything extremely well, maybe even a little better than the coaches,” Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said. “Our main priority was to stay safe. Once we realized we were staying there, we were able to practice and spend a lot of time together. We made the most of it.”
The Crusaders were originally scheduled to fly out on Sunday morning, but the flight was canceled following the snowstorm which shutdown much of the Midwest. The team had a rescheduled flight for Monday that was also canceled and the quickest the entire team could return to campus was Wednesday.
“We were able to spend time in the gym and go over everything that we needed to for this game,” Valparaiso guard Charae Richardson said. “We were together the whole time and our chemistry was there. This game just came down to rebounds and hustle.”
Heidi Schlegel led the Penguins with 19 points and 19 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass. Youngstown State scored 19 second chance points and had 17 points off turnovers. Schlegel and Karen Flagg (17 points) combined to score 15 straight points during a stretch where the Crusaders went 8:50 without a basket.
Sharon Karungi led the Crusaders (2-12, 0-1) with a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds. The rest of the team hit just 10 field goals while shooting 25.6 percent from the floor. Freshman Aliyah Issac scored a career-high nine points in the first extended action of her career.
“It feels good to be back,” Issac said. “I’ve had a couple injuries, but my teammates and coaches have been supporting me.”
The loss represented Valparaiso’s fifth conference-opening loss in the last seven years since joining the Horizon League. The two previous wins came against the Penguins.