The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team battled back to get within two points in the second half after trailing by as many as 18, but Southern Illinois sealed the deal down the stretch for a 74-63 win on Sunday afternoon at SIU Arena. There were several individual bright spots for the Crusaders, who were led in scoring by Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain).
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (9-9, 2-5 MVC) came out of the gate and knocked down shots early, with three of Valpo’s top shooters – Hamlet, Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) and Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington) – all burying early 3s. Franklin made all three of her first-quarter shots, while Hales had a pair of triples by the time the first 10 minutes had expired.
- A well-played first quarter featured three ties and two lead changes and finished with the two teams deadlocked at 18.
- The game was tied 24-24 with 4:13 to play in the first half, but the Salukis (11-8, 6-2) scored 11 of the game’s next 13 points to build a nine-point edge with 25 seconds left in the second quarter. Hales stemmed the tide with a key triple with 11 seconds left to cut the halftime deficit to six at 35-29.
- For the second consecutive game, the second half got off to an unfavorable start for Valpo. A 14-2 run by the Salukis allowed them to hold a commanding 49-31 cushion with 6:14 to go in the third.
- Unlike Friday night at Missouri State, the Crusaders had an answer to the home team’s third-quarter run. The response started with another 3 by Hales with 6:03 to go in the third, then extended to a 12-0 run to make it 49-43 after a layup by Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) at the 3:23 mark of the third.
- The game remained tight for the third quarter’s duration, and when the stanza ended Valpo had outscored Southern Illinois 21-19 and trailed by just four at 54-50 heading to the fourth.
- Hamlet scored the first basket of the fourth quarter, pulling her team to within two at 54-52. The Crusaders were back within two at 56-54 with 8:33 remaining in regulation, but that was as close as Valpo would come.
- It was just a four-point game at 65-61 with 3:05 left, but the Salukis used a 9-0 run to put the game away.
Inside the Game
- Hamlet led the Crusaders in scoring by pouring in 19 points, 14 of which came after halftime. She went 5-of-9 shooting after the break. Hamlet led the team in scoring for the first time since Dec. 15 and the fifth time this season.
- Profitt had shattered her rebounding career high by the midway mark of the second quarter and finished with a team-high nine rebounds. Her previous personal best of six had taken place on two occasions this season, most recently Dec. 29 at Drake.
- Hales drilled four 3-pointers, matched a career high that she had reached twice previously, most recently on Dec. 2 at Liberty. She went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc on Sunday, with all of her made field goals coming from distance.
- Stoller provided a spark off the bench for the second straight game, contributing five points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.
- Franklin scored an efficient 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and grabbed seven boards. She was in double figures for the 14th time this season.
- The Crusaders struggled at the free-throw line, making just 11 of their 22 attempts. The 50 percent at the stripe was the team’s second-worst of the season. The Crusaders went 12-of-25 at the free-throw line (48 percent) at Liberty.
Thoughts From Head Coach Tracey Dorow
On cutting an 18-point deficit to 2: “We became a lot more aggressive on the defensive end. I could hear several players, especially Meredith Hamlet, starting to talk more. Our whole team showed defensive urgency during that stretch. We attacked on the offensive end and were ready to put the ball in the hole. We pursued well both offensively and defensively as we put together that run.”
On Free-Throw Shooting: “We are a strong free-throw shooting team; missing that many is not typical of us. It’s disappointing that we didn’t take full advantage of those chances at the free-throw line. It’s not a concern going forward because it’s something I know our kids will bounce back from. They know they’re good free-throw shooters, but failing to capitalize on those opportunities changed the course of this game.”
On Profitt: “She relentlessly pursued the ball especially on the offensive glass, and also on the defensive side. She did a quality job of getting up there and keeping the ball alive. When she was on the floor, we rebounded the ball better, there’s no question about that.”
On Stoller: “I was extremely happy for Addy this weekend. She’s a true competitor in every sense of the word. She’s still trying to get her legs under her, literally. She attacked the paint, she defended well and she talked. She’s willing to bulldoze through people and get those garbage points. She had her hands on a few balls on the defensive side. We made our run when she was on the floor.”
On Turnovers: “We had a couple really big opportunities and instead of coming down and scoring we turned it over in some key moments. Some of it was simply not putting our pass on the money. We tried to make a play instead of coming back to meet the pass. We’ve got to take care of the basketball first and foremost. This game could have been much different had we done that at key moments.”
The Crusaders will return home next weekend as they match up with Evansville on Friday at 7 p.m. CT at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game can be seen on The Valley on ESPN3, heard on 95.1 FM WVUR and followed via live stats. Links to all the coverage are posted on ValpoAthletics.com.