VALPARAISO | Valparaiso withstood Penn's full-court press and variety of defenses for the majority of Friday night's nonconference game at Viking Gym.
But during crunch time, the young Vikings failed to take care of the ball in key moments that enabled Penn to escape with a 51-45 victory.
Valpo (2-1) had six of its 16 turnovers in the fourth quarter, and the Kingsmen (2-0) cashed in by hitting 10 of 14 free throws in the final 3 1/2 minutes.
"I know players will miss shots and that doesn't bother me," Valpo coach Matt Thomas said. "But defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball has to be a priority. Turnovers are definitely a concern. In practice this week we turned it over a lot ... so justice was served."
The Vikings jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game. Senior guard Alex Healy hit an early 3-pointer and junior Drew Paul picked up a couple early buckets for Valpo.
At the other end, the Vikings forced six early Penn turnovers while the Kingsmen missed their first four shots. They didn't get on the board until Ryan Lutz hit a 3-pointer with 57 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Valpo led 18-11 at the break, and still had a 33-30 advantage after Penn picked up the pace offensively in the third and got a 3-pointer from Justin Geist at the quarter buzzer following a Viking turnover.
The Vikings still led by five early in the fourth quarter on a pair of Justin Osburn free throws, but Penn didn't panic.
The Kingsmen finally tied it at 41 on a Geist free throw, and took their first lead at 43-41 on a pair of Billy Doslak free throws.
The final tie came at 45-45 when Valpo sophomore Conner TenHove hit a pair of free throws with 1:30 remaining. But on the next possession, Taylor Brooks got a rebound basket for the Kingsmen and they held on down the stretch.
"They're physical; they're strong and credit them because they played hard," Thomas said. "Their intensity defensively was really impressive. We saw it on film. They wear teams down, grind it out and it takes a toll."
Osburn hit 8 of 10 free throws and was the game's only double-figure scorer with 12 points. Paul finished with nine points and four rebounds, while TenHove added nine points and six rebounds.
"It was a good game for us to get ready for the Duneland Conferrence," Thomas said. "It lets us know where we're at and what we need to work on because Penn plays a style similar to some DAC schools."
This was the first regular-season meeting between the schools since 2002-03, the year before the DAC began double round-robin play. In that game, Valpo won at Penn 46-44 when current Viking assistant coach Brent Kimmel was a junior guard.