December 30, 20221st2nd3rd4thFinal
Stats at a GlanceVALPOBEL
FG Percentage.488 (21-43) .458 (27-59)
3P FG Percentage.407 (11-27) .421 (8-19)
FT Percentage.583 (7-12) .632 (12-19)
Offensive Rebounds213
Defensive Rebounds2422
Total Rebounds2635
Bench Points1532
PointsBrown - 18
Bartley - 20
ReboundsEarnest - 7
McGuff - 6
Miller - 6
AssistsSaunders - 5
Wells - 6
StealsEarnest - 2
Wells - 2
BlocksDunson - 1
Harvey - 1
Baird - 1
Women's Basketball Opens MVC Play Friday at Belmont
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
Women's Basketball Opens MVC Play Friday at Belmont
Ava Interrante set a career high in scoring last time out.

Valparaiso (2-6, 0-0 MVC)
Game #9 - Dec. 30, 2022 - 6:30 p.m.
at Belmont (4-7, 0-0 MVC)
Curb Event Center (5,000) - Nashville, Tenn.

Next Up in Valpo Basketball: An already lengthy break between games for the Valpo women’s basketball team became even lengthier with the postponement of its final nonconference game at Wisconsin, as the Beacons will take to the court for their first game in three weeks on Friday evening as they open conference play at MVC newcomer Belmont.

Previously: Juniors Jayda Johnston and Ava Interrante each smashed their career best in the scoring column on Dec. 9 at Western Illinois, but it wouldn’t be enough to come away victorious, as the host Leathernecks jumped out to an 11-point lead after one quarter on their way to an 83-67 win. Johnston scored a team-high 16 points and Interrante scored all 15 of her points in the second half. Valpo’s scheduled Dec. 22 game at Wisconsin was postponed until Jan. 25.

Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN3
Radio: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso)
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Links for live coverage: Available via

Head Coach Mary Evans: Mary Evans is in her fifth year at the helm of the program in 2022-23 and owns a record of 50-74. Evans has made an impact on the program in her first four years, raising the team’s level of play to be competitive in a strong Missouri Valley Conference. Evans’ preferred style of play has been a big part of the program’s turnaround, as Valpo has led the MVC in 3-pointers made per game in each of the last three seasons and in steals per game in two of the last three years.

Series Notes: Friday is the first meeting in program history between Valpo and Belmont. However, it is the third visit for Valpo all-time for a game in Nashville, as the program previously played once apiece at Tennessee State (Jan. 7, 1991; L 106-101) and at Lipscomb (Jan. 6, 2003; L 57-56).

...and @ValleyHoops
- Valpo was picked to finish in 10th place in the MVC preseason poll, totaling 197 points, just 10 points behind Evansville.
- Valpo is in its sixth season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Valley was ranked 10th in conference NET last year, was ranked seventh nationally in conference NET in 2020-21 and was eighth nationally in conference RPI in 2019-20.

...looking back at last year
- Valpo finished last year with an 11-19 overall record, but was strong in MVC play, going 9-9 in conference and finishing in sixth place - both of which match the program’s best since joining the Valley.
- The Beacons registered the first win at Drake and the first win at Bradley in program history.
- Valpo swept the season series over Drake, the program’s first two wins ever against the Bulldogs.
- The Beacons also tallied four top-100 wins within Valley play.
- Grace White was named MVC Sixth Player of the Year - the program’s first major postseason award since joining the Valley. Shay Frederick was a First Team All-MVC choice, while White was an All-Defensive Team selection and Olivia Brown earned a spot on the All-Newcomer Team. Western Illinois
- WIU led 27-16 at the end of the first quarter and extended its lead to 50-28 at intermission.
- The Leathernecks led by 25 early in the third quarter. Valpo battled back to within 16 at the end of the third period and got the deficit down to 11 points in the fourth quarter, missing a shot that would have potentially made it an eight-point game with 8:41 to play.
- Jayda Johnston surpassed her previous career high of six points early in the second quarter and finished with a team-best 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting and four rebounds in 32 minutes of action off the bench.
- Ava Interrante’s third-quarter output of nine points broke her previous career best by itself. All 15 of the junior’s points came in the second half, as she hit 5-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
- Leah Earnest registered her fourth double-double of the season, scoring 10 points and leading all players with 10 rebounds.
- After shooting just 9-of-26 from the field in the first half, Valpo shot nearly 50% (13-of-27) in the second half. The Beacons also were 6-of-14 from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes after going without a triple in the opening 20 minutes.
- Western Illinois took advantage of an edge at the charity stripe, going 28-of-37 from the foul line to Valpo’s 17-of-23. The Leathernecks also forced 22 Valpo turnovers and committed just 11 miscues, finishing with an 18-5 edge in points off turnovers.

...versus Western Michigan
- Valpo scored just one basket in the game’s first seven minutes, allowing the Broncos to lead by as many as 10 points in the opening quarter.
- WMU led 20-11 at the end of one period and 34-25 at halftime.
- The Broncos were up 46-33 halfway through the third period before a 8-0 Valpo run brought the Beacons within five.
- WMU scored the final seven points of the quarter, however, to extend back out to a 12-point lead with 10 minutes to play.
- Western Michigan led by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter and held a 60-47 lead to 5:30 to play. The Beacons’ defense stepped up, however, forcing five straight empty possessions from the Broncos over a span of nearly five minutes.
- On the offensive end, Olivia Brown drilled a 3-pointer and Leah Earnest had drives and finishes on back-to-back trips to bring Valpo within 60-54 with 3:10 to play. But with an opportunity to climb even closer, the Beacons committed turnovers on their next three possessions — the last a charge call which wiped out a potential and-1 opportunity with 85 seconds to play — and would get no closer the rest of the way.
- Brown led the way for Valpo offensively, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting — including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. The senior, who also grabbed five rebounds, tallied at least 20 points for the fourth time in a Valpo uniform.
- Earnest extended her streak of double-figure scoring games to open the season to seven straight with 12 points on Wednesday while pulling down a team-high seven rebounds as well.
- Pitts posted a career high in the scoring column as she hit 5-of-9 from the floor for 11 points.
- Valpo hit at a 50% clip from the field (24-of-48) on Wednesday and was 5-of-13 (38.5%) from 3-point range. Both percentages were the team’s second-best marks of the season.
- Meanwhile, the Beacons held WMU to 36.1% shooting (22-of-61) and just 4-of-24 (16.7%) from 3-point range, both of which were the second-lowest by a Valpo opponent this season.
- The Broncos secured 21 offensive rebounds to just nine offensive boards for Valpo, while WMU also held a +7 edge in turnover margin (22-15).

...looking ahead
- Valpo’s conference-opening road trip continues on New Year’s Day at MVC newcomer Murray State.
- The Beacons then return home for the first time in nearly a month next weekend to host Evansville and Indiana State.

...on the road
- Friday’s game is the fourth of 14 true road games for Valpo this season and the first MVC road game.
- The Beacons are 1-2 so far this season on the road and posted a 5-11 record in true road games last season.

- Belmont enters Friday’s game with a 4-7 record in nonconference play against a slate which included games against three nationally-ranked opponents.
- Destinee Wells, the MVC Preseason Player of the Year, leads four Bruins in double figures in scoring with 15.8 points/game and also hands out nearly five assists per contest.
- Belmont was chosen to win the MVC in the conference’s preseason poll, coming into its first season in the Valley off of back-to-back seasons with wins in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s Been Awhile
- Here’s an analogy: Valpo’s current break between games is to a normal exam break or holiday break, as Taylor Swift’s All Too Well (10 Minute Version) is to a normal pop song.
- Due to the postponement of the Dec. 22 game at Wisconsin, when the Beacons step on the court on Friday at Belmont, they will be taking the floor for game action for the first time in 21 days. Their last game came back on Friday, Dec. 9 at Western Illinois.
- The break was already going to be a lengthy 13 days heading into the Wisconsin game, but the postponement takes the length of the break into rare air.
- The last time Valpo went at least three weeks between games was during the 1989-90 campaign, when it played at Ball State Dec. 12 and next competed Jan. 4 at Loyola Marymount, a span of 23 days.

The New and the New
- It’s not everyday you face an opponent in conference play for the first time in program history, but that’s the case for the Beacons twice this weekend.
- The matchups against MVC newcomers Belmont and Murray State both add brand-new opponents to Valpo’s all-time results.
- When Valpo joined the MVC prior to the 2017-18 campaign, it had played against seven of the conference’s nine teams, with only games against Southern Illinois and Missouri State serving as brand-new matchups in its inaugural Valley campaign.
- Ironically, while two of the Valley’s three newcomers are new opponents for the Beacons, the third - UIC - is the most-common opponent in program history, as Valpo has met the Flames on 50 occasions.

Opening Conference Play
- It’s a familiar sight for Valpo to open conference play away from home.
- Dating back to its Horizon League days, this is the seventh time in the last nine seasons Valpo has played its league opener on the road.
- Valpo looks to reverse its luck in opening games, as just once in the last six seasons - a 63-56 win over UNI on Jan. 7, 2021 - has it opened conference action with a victory.

Setting Career Bests
- It wasn’t just the fact that juniors Ava Interrante and Jayda Johnston both set career highs in the scoring column last time out at Western Illinois, it was more in the fact of how both zoomed past their previous career best.
- Interrante came out of the first half scoreless, but matched her previous career high of five points just 2:35 into the third quarter - despite starting the period on the bench - and surpassed it 2:55 in.
- Interrante eventually ended the third quarter with nine points and finished the game with 15 points.
- Meanwhile, Johnston raced past her previous high of six points just 2:05 into the second quarter on her way to a team-best 16 points.
- Eight of Valpo’s 11 players who have seen action this season have tied or set career bests for scoring at some point in this season’s first eight games - notably, three separate games have featured multiple Beacons hitting career highs.
- The season-opening win at Central Michigan featured career bests for Leah Earnest (20) and Katie Beyer (11), while Ali Saunders (32) and Olivia Sims (12) hit career highs in the overtime loss to UAB.

Top Scorers Doing So Efficiently
- Three of Valpo’s top four scorers are hitting at least half their shots from the floor so far this year.
- Leah Earnest is averaging 13.0 points/game on 57.5% shooting, Ali Saunders 12.3 points/game on 56.1% shooting and Ilysse Pitts 6.1 points/game on 50% shooting.
- While she’s not hitting at a 50% clip, Olivia Brown isn’t shabby either, scoring 11.4 points/game on 42.9% shooting.
- All four are knocking down at least 38.9% from the 3-point line as well.
- Valpo has not had even one of its top scorers shoot at least 50% for a season since Sharon Karungi scored 11 points/game on 52.9% shooting in 2013-14.

Earnest Crashes the Boards
- Leading the way on the glass in the MVC this season has been junior Leah Earnest, with four double-figure rebounding performances and a 9.0 rebounds/game average to top the conference and rank among the top-60 nationally.
- Earnest now owns the top-two individual rebounding efforts in head coach Mary Evans’ tenure with 14 against EIU and 13 against UAB.
- Earnest is the first Valpo player to secure at least 27 combined rebounds in consecutive games since Amber Lindfors grabbed 17 boards against Northern Kentucky and 12 against Oakland in February 2017.
- Earnest has also been consistently on the scoresheet, scoring in double figures in each of Valpo’s first eight games of the season.
- Combining her scoring and rebounding, Earnest has registered four double-doubles after recording just one in her first two seasons combined.
- Earnest is the first player in program history to tally three double-doubles in the first four games of a season.
- Earnest already has more double-doubles this season than Valpo has posted as a team in any of the last three seasons. She is the first Valpo player with at least four double-doubles in a single campaign since Addison Stoller tallied four during the 2018-19 season.

A New Rookie Standard
- Freshman Ali Saunders set a new mark for Valpo rookies as she scored 32 points against UAB.
- The previous freshman record is unknown, but there have now been 16 games in program history a Valpo player has scored 32 or more points, and none of the previous 15 came from a rookie.
- As of Monday, Saunders is one of only five D-I freshmen to score 32 or more points in a game this season, joining Minnesota’s Mara Braun, Florida State’s Ta’Niya Latson and Northern Colorado’s Gabi Fields.
- Saunders posted the highest-scoring game by any Valpo player since Dani Franklin dropped 33 points against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 3, 2016.
- Saunders was in double figures in the scoring column in each of the first four games of her collegiate career - the first Valpo freshman since Franklin in 2014-15 to do so.

Top 100 Wins
- Valpo has made a habit of knocking off top-100 opponents in MVC play over the last few seasons.
- Four times in MVC play in 2021-22, the Beacons earned a victory over a top-100 team.
- Valpo has nine top-100 NET/RPI wins in Valley action over the last three seasons.
- Prior to its Feb. 16, 2020 win at Illinois State - its first top-100 win in conference play since joining the Valley - Valpo had gone nearly seven years without a top-100 victory.
- Valpo has two shots at top-100 NET wins this weekend, as Belmont and Murray State join Drake and UNI within the top-100 entering the start of MVC play.

Happy Trails Until 2023
- Despite being within the first week of December, the home game against Western Michigan on Dec. 7 was the Beacons’ last at the ARC in the 2022 calendar year.
- Valpo will not play another home game until welcoming Evansville to town on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.
- The 29 days between home games is the longest stretch between regular season home games for Valpo since the 1999-2000 team went 35 days between playing Eastern Michigan at the ARC on Dec. 9 and Oakland at home on Jan. 13.