The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team opened exhibition play on Tuesday night in victorious fashion, defeating St. Francis (Ill.) 49-40 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders were led by sophomore Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview), who turned in a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Valpo withstood the absence of leading scorer Dani Franklin, who was held out with an injury.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders jumped out to a hot start, scoring the first seven points of the game before three minutes had elapsed to grab the early edge. A 3-pointer by Hales capped the game-opening run.
- Junior Hannah Schaub (Brooklyn Park, Minn. / Park Center) got in on the 3-point act to build the cushion to nine at 12-3 with 5:16 to go in the first quarter. The Fighting Saints chipped away for the remainder of the opening stanza, closing to within five at 16-11 at the quarter break. Hales led the way with five points in the first 10 minutes.
- Valpo got off to a good start in the second quarter, just as it did in the opening period. The Crusaders went on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to double digits at 23-11 with 7:40 remaining in the second quarter. Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill. / Glenbrook South) drilled a triple, while redshirt freshman Marlee Profitt (Medina, Ohio / Highland) contributed a nifty tip-in during that stretch.
- The lead fluctuated between nine and 12 for the remainder of the half, and Valpo entered the locker room owning a 31-22 advantage. A trio of Crusaders shared the first half lead with seven points apiece – Schaub, Hales and Morrison. Hales also had five boards before halftime.
- The Fighting Saints got back in the game by outscoring the Crusaders 14-7 in the third quarter. What had been a double-figure edge evaporated as St. Francis scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 38.
- From there, the Crusaders locked down defensively, allowing just two points over the final nine minutes and outscoring St. Francis 11-2 over that time.
Inside the Game
- Valpo held St. Francis to 27.5 percent shooting. The defense was particularly strong during a critical fourth-quarter, as the Crusaders permitted the Saints to make just two of their 16 field-goal attempts.
- The Crusaders won the battle on the boards 49-34 and pulled down 19 offensive caroms while surrendering just eight.
- Valpo had eight steals as a team, led by sophomore Maya Meredith (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral), who had three.
- The Crusaders played without Dani Franklin for the first time since Feb. 21, 2015, her freshman season. Franklin had the highest 2016-17 scoring average of any current Missouri Valley Conference player at 18.0 points per game.
- St. Francis (Ill.) is ranked No. 5 nationally in the preseason NAIA Division-II poll. The Saints went 34-2 and undefeated in the CCAC a year ago.
- Hales paced the team in both points (11) and rebounds (10), while Morrison joined her fellow sophomore in double figures with 10 points and four boards.
- Schaub and Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) each registered nine points, while Schaub led the team with five assists.
- Freshman Nicole Konieczny (Granger, Ind. / South Bend St. Joseph) made a start in her first collegiate game, while rookies Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake), Bryce Blood (Toledo, Ohio / Whitmer) and Taylor Richards (Doylestown, Ohio / Chippewa) also made their debuts for the Crusaders.
- St. Francis’ Adriana Acosta turned in a game-high 12 points to go along with 10 boards to pace her team.
Thoughts from Head Coach Tracey Dorow
Playing Without Franklin: “Playing without Dani Franklin made it interesting because we had a lot of different lineups out on the floor that weren’t used to playing together. We had to make a lot of adjustments. It was good to see what we could and couldn’t do.”
Thoughts on the Game: “We struggled to put the ball in the hole, with the exception of Grace and Caitlin, who both found the basket a lot. We got good looks, we were unable to put it in. When we got frustrated, we started turning the ball over. At the other end of the floor, we did a really nice job and rebounded especially well. I was proud of that effort.”
On St. Francis (Ill.): “You could tell they’ve played two games already and were ready to play another game. They gained some momentum because they knocked down some shots and hung in there and made some plays. They hung around and competed really hard. You could tell they played a few more times than we have.”
On Hales and Morrison: “Both of them rebounded the ball well. Grace pursued the ball hard and knocked down a couple shots. We’re getting the right shots for the right people. They both competed hard and played with a lot more confidence than they did as freshman.”
The Crusaders will open the regular season on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. CT against IU Kokomo at the Athletics-Recreation Center. For those who can’t make it to the game, it will be broadcast on The Valley on ESPN3 with Dave Huseman and Jamie Stangel describing the action. The regular season opener against the Cougars will also be carried on WVUR, 95.1 FM The Source. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.