When the stakes were the highest, the Valparaiso University women’s basketball team came through with one of its best performances of the season on Friday afternoon. The ninth-seeded Crusaders dispatched eighth-seeded Youngstown State 79-62, extending their season at least another day and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Crusaders received contributions from up and down the roster while compiling a shooting percentage of 49.3 and pulling down an eye-popping 52 rebounds against Youngstown State’s 26.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (10-20) started strong, as they sprinted ahead 8-0 in the first 1:32 of the game. Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington) and Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill. / Glenbrook South) drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to give the Crusaders the early edge.
- The Penguins (9-21) threw the next punch, closing to within three at 10-7, but then Valpo embarked on another 7-0 spurt, starting with a Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) 3-pointer and culminating with a layup by Amber Lindfors (Elk Grove Village, Ill. / Elk Grove) to push the lead to 10 with 3:38 to go in the first.
- Alison Smolinski heated up late in the first quarter, and finished the period with four made 3-pointers.
- The Crusaders held a 21-19 lead after shooting 52.9 percent in the opening quarter.
- Smolinski matched a school record for 3s in a Horizon League Tournament game by knocking down her fifth early in the second, giving the Penguins a short-lived 22-21 edge. Morrison responded by swishing a triple of her own to put the Crusaders back in front.
- The two teams went back-and-forth until the 3:27 mark of the second quarter when Valpo started a 7-0 run to turn what was a one-point deficit into a 34-28 halftime lead.
- After Youngstown State had the first basket of the second half to cut Valpo’s lead to four, the Crusaders went on a 10-0 run to boost the edge to14. They outscored the Penguins 17-2 during a stretch spanning the end of the first half and start of the second half.
- The Crusaders continued to pour it on for the duration of the third period, outscoring the Penguins 31-19 in total in that stanza.
- The Penguins made a slight push in the fourth, but the Crusaders sealed the deal, holding on for the 17-point win.
Inside the Game
- The 31 points in the third quarter marked the most points the Valpo women have ever scored in a quarter. The NCAA went from halves to quarters for women’s basketball before the 2015-16 season.
- The 79 points is the most Valpo has scored against a Division-I opponent since last year’s 94-91 overtime win over Detroit Mercy in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament.
- The Crusaders have won a Horizon League Tournament game in five of the last six seasons.
- Franklin posted a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Crusaders in scoring. She took over seventh place on Valpo’s all-time scoring list, surpassing Marlous Nieuwveen (1998-2002) and Tabitha Gerardot (2010-13).
- Hannah Schaub (Brooklyn Park, Minn. / Park Center) handed out six assists in the game, lifting her season total to 129 and moving into a tie with Jessica Carr’s 2014-15 season for eighth in program history.
- Lindfors filled the stat sheet with 12 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Valpo is now 4-0 when Lindfors posts a double-double this season.
- Hamlet knocked down six of the seven shots she attempted and put up 16 points, her first time in double figures since she matched a career high with 29 at Youngstown State on Jan. 14.
- Lindfors boosted her season blocks total to 70, third in program history for blocks in a single year. She’s one shy of her own season total from a year ago, which ranks second all-time.
- Morrison established a career high with 11 points while equaling her career watermark in rebounds with eight. She drained three 3s, her first time achieving that feat since Nov. 25 against Liberty.
- The 52 total rebounds marked the most since Dec. 21, 2015 against IU Kokomo, when Valpo had 58 boards. It’s the most rebounds against a Division-I opponent since Jan. 15, 2015, when the Crusaders pulled down 55 against Oakland.
- The shooting percentage of 49.3 was Valpo’s highest against a Division-I opponent since last year’s first-round tournament game against Detroit, when the Crusaders shot 57.1 percent.
Thoughts from Head Coach Tracey Dorow
- Opening Statement: “The experience so far has been phenomenal. Winning helps a ton, but it’s really exciting to be in Detroit. It’s a really cool atmosphere. Our kids were really excited about coming here. We played with a lot of energy today. Coach Mo (John Motherwell) did a great job with the game plan and really pressuring (Indiya Benjamin) and keeping the ball out of her hands and making it hard on her early. We didn’t do as good of a job on (Alison) Smolinski in the first half, but we made some adjustments and did a much better job taking her away later in the game. I think our biggest key was rebounding. We did a great job pounding the glass on both ends, and I’m really proud of the effort that we had. We were really happy to come out with a win.”
- On Battling Adversity: “I think the biggest key is that these kids really care about each other, and they don’t want this to be over. We struggled throughout the season to stay healthy. We’ve got a young team, and they’re confidence has been knocked around a little bit. Sometimes it’s a matter of having an injury or kids being sick. We’ve had a lot of adversity, but these kids are battling and I’m really proud of them. I know they don’t want the season to be over.”
- On the Matchup: “I know Youngstown is a very good team, and obviously they didn’t go away. We were hoping they would, but they didn’t. It’s a tough matchup, and our kids just battled. We talked a little bit about that first game and what UIC did. They just had that look in their eyes that said, ‘We have to do this.’ That’s what we focused on going in.”
- Looking to Green Bay: “We’ve got nothing to lose. Nobody believes in us but us. We need to continue to play within ourselves. When Dani, Amber and Meredith play well, we’re really good. When they don’t play well, we’re not as good. Everybody knows that. Green Bay is going to do their best to take those three out of the game. We’re battling to make sure that we’re taking care of the basketball and rebounding well. I expect us to go out there and compete, and if we do that possession-by-possession, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
Valpo will have no choice but to embrace the role of underdog as it faces top-seeded Green Bay (24-5, 15-3 Horizon) on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. CT. The Phoenix, a yearly Horizon League powerhouse, will be playing their first game of the tournament after earning a first-round bye. The game can be seen on ESPN3 with Andy Masur (play-by-play) and Kelley Deyo (color commentary). The hometown call is available on 95.1 FM Valparaiso with David Horak (play-by-play) and Renee’ Turpa (color commentary). Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.