Valparaiso (2-8, 0-2 MVC)
Game #11 - Jan. 5, 2023 - 6 p.m.
Evansville (5-5, 0-2 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: For the first time in nearly a full month, the Valpo women’s basketball team will step on its home court at the ARC for a game as the Beacons continue MVC play on home Thursday evening against Evansville.
Previously: Facing a road test against a Murray State team which entered the day with the best overall record in the Valley at 8-2, the Valpo women’s basketball team acquitted itself well on Sunday, sticking with the Racers through three quarters before the hosts pulled away in the fourth period for a 67-48 victory. For the second straight game, it was Olivia Brown pacing the Beacons’ offense, as the senior finished with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
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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 50-76. 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: Valpo leads the all-time series over Evansville 14-9, including an 8-4 mark on its home floor of the ARC. The Beacons have claimed each of the last four meetings between the two programs, including a season sweep last season, winning 74-62 at the ARC and 75-70 in overtime in Evansville. Olivia Brown averaged 17.5 points/game on 64.7% shooting over those two victories, including matching her high in the Valpo uniform with 21 points in the home victory over the Purple Aces.
- 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.
...at Murray State
- Valpo trailed the Racers 17-11 at the end of the first quarter and were within 32-28 at intermission.
- The Beacons fell behind by 10 in the third quarter, but were able to erase all but one point off that deficit and went into the fourth trailing just 46-43.
- Valpo went without a field goal for over eight minutes to start the fourth quarter as the Racers pulled away.
- Sunday’s game was Valpo’s second consecutive road game against a top-100 NET team to open up the MVC schedule.
- While the Racers shot at a 50% clip for the game, the second-best mark by a Valpo opponent this season, the Beacons forced a total of 16 MSU turnovers, 9 of which were steals — both just one off the respective season bests.
- Valpo was limited to 34.6% shooting for the game, but was at 42.1% through three quarters to be within three points with 10 minutes to play.
- A relatively clean game, Valpo attempted just nine free throws — a season low — and sent MSU to the stripe just 10 times — the lowest for a Valpo opponent this season.
- Olivia Brown paced the Beacons for a second straight game, knocking down three 3-pointes on her way to 15 points. The senior is averaging 15.5 points/game over her last four outings after averaging just 5.3 points/game in the previous three games.
- Brown was the lone Valpo player in double figures on Sunday, as Earnest was next-best with eight points. The junior grabbed 10 rebounds as well, her fifth double-digit effort on the glass this season.
- Olivia Brown hit four first-half 3-pointers and Ava Interrante three, combining for 21 first-half points as Valpo trailed 44-30 at intermission.
- The Beacons cut the deficit to single digits at 48-40 with 4:11 to play in the third quarter.
- Valpo was called for fouls on its next six defensive possessions, allowing Belmont to go 10-of-11 from the foul line over that span as the Bruins scored 12 of the quarter’s final 17 points to lead 60-45 with 10 minutes to play.
- The Beacons dropped their MVC opener for the fifth time in six seasons in the conference. Notably, all but one of those defeats have come on the road.
- Valpo went 11-of-27 from 3-point range on Friday night, the third time this year it has hit double digits from deep and matching its season high of 11 triples, previously reached against Bowling Green.
- The Beacons’ 40.7% 3-point percentage was their second-best of the season as well.
- Leading the charge from deep was Brown, who went 6-of-8 from the 3-point line for her team-best 18 points. The six triples tied her career high and set a high for her time at Valpo.
- Brown also moved into Valpo’s single-game record book, as her .750 3-point percentage is tied for seventh-best in program history with a minimum of seven attempts.
- Ava Interrante made her presence felt from deep as well, setting a career best as she went 4-of-6 from downtown. The junior ended the night with 14 points — one off her career high set last time out.
- Ali Saunders ended up in double figures as well, closing strong to finish with 10 points — her sixth time in double digits this season. The rookie also matched her season high with five assists.
- After Belmont shot 51.4% from the field and 8-of-13 from 3-point range in the first half, the Beacons’ defense held the Bruins to 37.5% shooting and 0-of-6 from deep in the second half.
- Valpo committed 22 turnovers on Friday to just 14 for Belmont, as the Bruins enjoyed a 20-8 advantage in points off turnovers.
- The back end of this home weekend sees Valpo host Indiana State on Saturday afternoon.
- The Beacons then make a quick mid-week trip to Chicago to take on UIC Jan. 11.
...at the ARC
- Thursday’s game is the sixth of 15 home games this season for Valpo and the first home MVC game.
- The Beacons are 1-4 at home so far this year and went 6-7 in home games last season.
- Evansville enters Thursday’s game at 5-5 overall. The Purple Aces fell at home to Southern Illinois and Missouri State to open the MVC slate after going 5-3 in preconference action.
- Abby Feit was named Preseason All-MVC and UE was chosen ninth in the preseason poll.
- Feit leads the Purple Aces, averaging 13.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, while Myia Clark is averaging 13.2 points/game and hitting at a 41.5% clip from 3-point range.
Finally Back Home
- It will have been nearly a month since Valpo’s last home game when the Beacons step on the court at the ARC Thursday evening to face Evansville.
- 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.
- 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.
The Hoosier State Crown
- This weekend marks Valpo’s first steps in laying claim to being the top Indiana team in the Valley for a fourth consecutive season.
- The Beacons have owned the best head-to-head record against the MVC’s other two Indiana programs - Evansville and Indiana State - each of the last three years.
- Here are the head-to-head records between the three teams since Valpo joined the Valley:
2021-22 - Valpo 3-1; Indiana State 3-2; Evansville 1-4
2020-21 - Valpo 2-1; Indiana State 1-1; Evansville 2-3
2019-20 - Valpo 4-0; Indiana State 2-2; Evansville 0-4
2018-19 - Indiana State 3-2; Evansville 2-2; Valpo 2-3
2017-18 - Indiana State 4-0; Valpo 2-2; Evansville 0-4
Opening Weekend Redux
- It might be worth it for senior Olivia Brown to pretend that every weekend of action is the opening weekend of conference play.
- Last season, the first weekend of MVC play served as a breakout for Brown on her way to All-Newcomer Team accolades, as she averaged 13.5 points/game after scoring just 28 points combined in nonconference play.
- The highlight of opening weekend last year was a 21-point performance on 8-of-10 shooting, including five 3-pointers, at Missouri State.
- This year, Brown paced the Beacons in both games to open conference play, averaging 16.5 points/game on 64.7% shooting.
- Brown notched 18 points at Belmont on a career-best six 3-pointers, hitting at a 75% clip from deep to move into Valpo’s single-game top-10, and then scored 15 points at Murray State.
Hitting From Deep
- Valpo reached double figures in 3-pointers made for the third time this season on Friday evening when the Beacons connected on 11 triples at Belmont to tie a season high.
- The Beacons also hit better than 40% from deep for the second time this season.
- Olivia Brown matched her career high and set a high-water mark for her time at Valpo with six triples, while Ava Interrante set a career best with four 3-pointers.
- On the year, Brown is sixth in the Valley with 2.3 triples/game and is shooting 46.9% from the 3-point line, while Valpo ranks third as a team with 8.0 3-pointers/game.
Interrante Steps Up
- Junior Ava Interrante entered Valpo’s game at Western Illinois with 27 career points to her credit, but has more than doubled that mark over the Beacons’ last three outings.
- Interrante flew past her previous career high with 15 second-half points against the Leathernecks, followed with 14 points in the game at Belmont and connected on a pair of triples for six points last time out at Murray State.
- Interrante also made her first career start against the Bruins.
- The junior entered the WIU game with just one career triple to her credit, but hit three from deep in that contest and then bested that last Friday with four 3-pointers against Belmont before connecting from downtown twice against Murray State.
Setting Career Bests
- Interrante wasn’t the only Beacon player to zoom past her previous career best Dec. 9 at Western Illinois.
- Junior Jayda 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
- Valpo’s top three scorers are all doing so at a very efficient clip, including two of the three hitting at least their field goal attempts.
- Leah Earnest is averaging 11.8 points/game on 55.7% shooting and Ali Saunders 11.3 points/game on 50% shooting.
- While she’s not hitting at a 50% clip, Olivia Brown isn’t shabby either, scoring 12.4 points/game on 47.1% shooting.
- Brown and Saunders are both hitting at least 40% of their 3-point attempts 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 five double-figure rebounding performances this season - most recently a 10-board effort to pace Valpo at Murray State.
- Earnest’s average of 8.9 rebounds/game tops the conference and ranks among the top-70 nationally.
- Earnest now owns the top-two individual rebounding efforts in head coach Mary Evans’ tenure with 14 against EIU and 13 against UAB.
- 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.
- 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.