The Valpo women’s basketball team erased nearly all of a 13-point first-half deficit Tuesday night playing at a Michigan State receiving votes in both national top-25 polls, pulling to within four points in the third quarter, and made another run at the Spartans in the fourth quarter, but came up just short, as the Beacons fell to MSU, 73-62.
How It Happened
- Valpo had a pair of early leads over the Spartans, but Michigan State’s shooting gave it the eventual advantage in the opening period. MSU was 8-of-11 from the floor, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, over the opening 10 minutes. The Beacons did force seven MSU turnovers in the first quarter, helping stay within striking range as the Spartans led 23-12 at the end of the period.
- The deficit hovered right around the 10-point mark for most of the second quarter. A 3-pointer from Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) brought Valpo to within six points at 34-28 late in the quarter, but MSU scored the final basket of the half as the score was 36-28 at intermission.
- Valpo came out of the locker room looking to jump on the Spartans, led by the effort of Grace White (Redby, Minn./Red Lake [Denver]). The Beacons scored on five of their first seven possessions of the second half, with White contributing seven points during that stretch — the last three coming on a triple which brought Valpo within 43-39 with 6:19 to play in the quarter.
- Valpo actually had a chance to make it a one-point game after an MSU miss, but mis-fired on a 3-point attempt. The Spartans scored the next 10 points as part of a larger 17-5 run to close out the period as they extended out to a 60-44 lead with 10 minutes to play.
- MSU led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Valpo still faced a 15-point deficit at the halfway mark of the quarter. But the Beacons methodically tried to find their way back into the game.
- It started with baskets on back-to-back trips from Earnest and Maya Dunson (Dayton, Ohio/Wayne [Loyola]), and White responded to an MSU 3-pointer with a triple of her own.
- A second-chance basket for the Spartans with 2:37 to play was answered by another hoop from Earnest with 1:47 to go. After a defensive stop, Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis./Hortonville) was fouled and hit both free throws to make it a single-digit game.
- Valpo got another stop on the defensive end, forcing an MSU shot clock violation, and came down and got a basket from White to move with 69-62 with 24 seconds to go. That was as close as the Beacons would get, though, as the Spartans hit their final four free throw attempts down the stretch.
Inside the Game
- Tuesday’s game came against a Michigan State squad which earned an at-large bid to last season’s NCAA Tournament. The Spartans are currently third among teams also receiving votes in the AP top-25 poll and were sixth among teams also receiving votes in the preseason coaches poll.
- After averaging 16.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in Valpo’s three games against Big Ten teams a season ago, White enjoyed another stellar effort against high-level competition Tuesday. White led all players with 22 points, just one off her Valpo high and 17 of which came in the second half.
- White shot 7-of-11 from the floor and went 4-of-8 from deep, matching her career best for 3-pointers made. She also paced Valpo with six rebounds.
- Frederick joined White in double figures Tuesday, finishing with 15 points.
- Earnest chipped in seven points and four rebounds off the bench, while Dunson added six points and four rebounds.
- Valpo put together its best effort on the defensive glass of the season, limiting Michigan State to just four second-chance points and only 11 offensive boards.
- The Beacons committed three fewer turnovers than the Spartans (16-13) and came up with six steals, three of which were courtesy of Carie Weinman (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South [Denver]).
Thoughts From Coach Evans
“I think our players did a great job focusing in on our game plan on such a short turnaround tonight. We collectively did a great job taking care of the basketball against a team that had forced 51 turnovers in their first two games. I also saw improvement in our rebounding and keeping them off the offensive glass.”
“I was really proud of our effort all night long. MSU came out red hot, and we helped with a few defensive breakdowns. I thought our players stayed together and maintained their composure and we able to answer their runs with our own runs. This team has a lot of fight and our mental toughness is growing as a group. I am excited to watch them continue to come together.”
“Grace has a great mixture of skill and athleticism and just really knows how to play the game of basketball. She has been able to make outside shots playing against high-level teams and that has really set up her drives. I love her mentality versus these teams and hope she can bring the same focus to the rest of our games this season.”
“We need to get into the gym and continue to work on us heading into Xavier on Sunday. We need to correct some of our defensive mistakes and continue to work on our offensive movement.”
Valpo (0-3) continues the current five-game road stretch on Sunday when it goes to the Queen City to face Xavier. Tipoff on Sunday is slated for 3 p.m. CT, and the game can be seen live online on FloSports. WVUR will have the radio broadcast, which will also be available via the TuneIn app.