The Valparaiso University women’s basketball program has accomplished a feat no Crusader team has reached in the last 10 years – finishing the nonconference portion of the season with seven victories. The Crusaders cruise into the holiday happy after Thursday’s 68-50 win over Fort Wayne, a triumph that extended the team’s winning streak to four and allowed Valpo to remain undefeated at home this season.
How It Happened
- The Mastodons (3-10) inched out to an early 5-4 lead with 3:53 left in the first quarter, but the Crusaders (7-4) went on a 20-0 run and owned a 24-5 edge with 6:24 to go in the second.
- In the first quarter, Fort Wayne shot just 15 percent and also made five turnovers to Valpo’s one.
- The Mastodons could never fully recover from the run that allowed Valpo to pull away before halftime. At the break, Valpo led 33-17 with Fort Wayne shooting just 22 percent to Valpo’s 40.
- The Crusaders continued to play lock-down defense in the third quarter, holding Fort Wayne to eight point on 3-of-12 shooting. Valpo carried a 47-25 edge to the fourth.
- Fort Wayne’s best quarter was the fourth, as the Mastodons outscored the Crusaders 25-21 with 12 Valpo players seeing action in that period.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders committed just eight turnovers, matching last week’s win over IU Northwest for the fewest turnovers made by Valpo this season. This marked the fewest turnovers the team has made in a game against a Division I opponent since Dec. 12, 2015, when the Crusaders limited the turnover total to six against Miami (Ohio).
- Georgi Donchetz (Savage, Minn. / Burnsville) made her season debut after missing the first 10 games with an injury. The Valpo senior came off the bench to pull down a team-high four rebounds in eight minutes.
- Senior Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington) again led the way in scoring, pouring in 19. She was joined in double figures by a pair of freshmen – Nicole Konieczny (Granger, Ind. / South Bend Saint Joseph) and Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake), who finished with 12 and 10 respectively.
- Konieczny reached double figures for the second time in her Crusader career and finished one point shy of a career best, while Ellenson’s performance set a career high in scoring, surpassing her previous watermark of six set in the season opener against IU Kokomo.
- The four-game winning streak matches Valpo’s longest of the last 11 seasons. It’s the program’s second four-game winning streak of the last decade, with Valpo also having won four straight in 2015-16.
- With two games remaining, Valpo has already nailed down a winning record in December. This marks the team’s first winning month in the regular season since going 5-3 in December 2015.
- Valpo owns its highest nonconference win total since 2006-07 and finished the nonconference portion of the season with an undefeated home record for the first time since 2007-08.
- The Crusaders went 26-of-29 at the free-throw line, good for 89.7 percent. That marked Valpo’s third straight game over 85 percent at the stripe and matched the win over Grand Canyon for the most made free throws in a game this season.
Thoughts from Head Coach Tracey Dorow
On the Winning Streak: “It feels great to end the nonconference schedule with four straight wins. Our players have really risen to the challenge of competing night in and night out. They have stepped up when adversity strikes and shown an ability to grind out wins.”
On Limiting Turnovers “We’ve done a good job of making good decisions and finding the sure pass. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to turn the ball over at all, and in fact in a few of our losses we’ve turned it over too many times, but our team understands that we give ourselves a chance to win by getting more shots off. We’ve been executing significantly better, and I think it’s a combination of talent, focus and a desire to win.”
On Georgi Donchetz: “It was awesome to see her out there. Georgi is the heart and soul of our program; everybody wants her to do well. It meant a lot for her to be able to get on the floor right before the holiday.”
On Ella Ellenson: “She showed a lot of patience tonight. She got herself to the free-throw line and knocked her free throws down. She’s a hustler, she makes exciting plays and she battles each and every possession.”
On Nicole Konieczny: “She has been sick and lost a lot of weight over the last week. Our team has been trying to support her. She has been focused on being her best and has let the game come to her. She focused on attacking the paint and she made plays today.”
After a few days off for the Christmas holiday, the Crusaders will return to the court to prepare for the first Missouri Valley Conference game in program history on Friday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. CT at Drake. The game can be seen on The Valley on ESPN3 or heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso. Links to live video, audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.