The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team returned to the win column on Thursday evening, fending off Chicago State for a 76-70 win at the Jones Convocation Center in Chicago. Two of Valpo’s proven commodities enjoyed strong showings as senior Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) poured in a game-high 28 points, while redshirt sophomore Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) had a career-high 18 points and nine rebounds.
How It Happened
- Valpo jumped out to an 11-2 lead over the first four minutes of the game. Hamlet already had seven points and a pair of 3s at that early juncture. When Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake) buried a triple at the 5:02 mark, that ballooned Valpo’s lead to 10 at 14-4.
- Chicago State ended the quarter on a positive spurt, and once Tyeshia Bowers connected from 3-point range as time expired to end the first, the Cougars had clawed back to within three at 16-13.
- Chicago State closed to within one early in the second quarter, but Valpo scored six straight to up the lead to seven. The Cougars used a string of late-half free throws to cut the deficit to four at 37-33 at the break. Valpo shot 50 percent in the second quarter and made over half of its first-half field goals, but struggled to get consistent defensive stops.
- Valpo led by eight with 5:31 to go in the third, but that edge vanished thanks to an 8-0 run by the hosts. The Cougars tied it on three occasions before breaking through with their first lead of the game at 50-49 with 1:35 left in the third. Bryce Blood (Toledo, Ohio / Whitmer) made a key layup with 42 seconds left in the quarter to allow Valpo to hold the lead entering the fourth.
- Valpo was hindered by foul trouble in the third quarter, a period that saw Chicago State outscore the visitors 19-16. The Cougars won the battle on the boards 10-5 in that period and went 7-of-9 at the stripe.
- The Cougars wouldn’t let Valpo pull away, as they hung around for the entirety of the fourth quarter. Every time Valpo seemed to be in position to open it up, Chicago State closed to within one or two possessions. Tyeshia Bowers gave Chicago State its first lead of the fourth quarter with a fast-break basket with 1:09 remaining to make it 68-66.
- Stoller quickly tied it with a layup, then Valpo survived courtesy of clutch free throws down the final stretch. Stoller had seven fourth-quarter points and went 5-of-6 at the free-throw line in the final period to help her team hold on.
Inside the Game
- Hamlet accumulated 28 points, finishing one shy of a career high and establishing a season watermark. She filled the stat sheet, racking up four steals (tying a career high) and a season-high five assists to go along with her scoring contributions. The Valpo senior drained five 3s in the victory.
- Stoller established a career high with 18 points and went 10-of-15 at the free-throw line. She was one board shy of a double-double, a feat that she threatened in all three games of the Vinewood Farm Classic. Stoller’s nine rebounds were a team high. Her previous career high in scoring was this year’s season opener, when she had 17 at UIC.
- Valpo shot a season-best 46.2 percent. That was the team’s highest field goal percentage in a game since Jan. 26, 2018 – a 101-59 win over Evansville.
- Chicago State (0-7) was led by Tyeshia Bowers, who finished with 25 points, while Ines Mata Boix had 16 to go along with 13 rebounds.
- This was the first time this season Valpo (2-5) did not win the turnover battle, turning it over 26 times while forcing 21.
- Four of Valpo’s seven games this season have been decided by exactly six points.
- Steals remained a strength for Valpo as the team racked up 12 on Thursday.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mary Evans
“Our players are fighting and trying to get better every day. Meredith stepped up and had a great game today. We have to get a little better defensively. We’ve focused on offense in practice the last few days and shot it extremely well tonight. We had some major breakdowns defensively, so we’ve got to get better at that before playing Eastern Illinois on Sunday.”
“Addison is a fantastic player and a great young lady. She fights and fights and fights. She tends to get in a little foul trouble, but we’re going to keep working on that. If she can get her minutes up, she’s going to be something special for us. We’re really proud of her and Meredith. The freshmen gave us some good contributions against the press. It’s a good team win. We’ll take this game and try to get better for Eastern Illinois.”
“Hannah (Schaub) is continuing to improve and understand what we need to do within our offense. When we get a little healthier, we’re going to want to push the pace, and Hannah does a good job of that. I love the way that kid pushes the basketball, and she’s only going to get better and better.”
Valpo will be back on the court for its third game of the week on Sunday against Eastern Illinois at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game is slated to tip off at 4 p.m. CT and will be the back half of a men’s-women’s doubleheader. The game will air on ESPN+ and 95.1 FM Valparaiso with live stats also available.