Valparaiso (3-15, 1-8 MVC)
Game #19 - Jan. 29, 2023 - 1 p.m.
Bradley (3-17, 0-9 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team continues its home-heavy stretch of games Sunday afternoon when the Beacons close out the first half of MVC play against Bradley.
Previously: Valpo fell in its return to the ARC Friday evening, as conference-leading Illinois State came in and earned a 78-46 victory over the Beacons. Jayda Johnston scored all of her team-best 14 points in the second half, 13 of which came in the third quarter, while Ali Saunders added 13 points.
Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN+
Streaming Audio: TuneIn app
Links for live coverage: Available via ValpoAthletics.com
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 51-83. 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: Bradley leads the all-time series, 12-5, but the last two seasons, it has been Valpo coming away victorious in three of four meetings. Last year, it was a pair of Beacon victories, as Valpo won 68-61 in Peoria and 86-84 at the ARC. The road win featured the first career double-double for Leah Earnest, who registered 11 points and 10 rebounds, while the home win was highlighted by 17 points and 11 assists from Shay Frederick.
- 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.
...versus Illinois State
- The Redbirds led 23-6 at the end of the first quarter and extended their lead to as many as 28 points in the second quarter.
- An 11-2 Valpo run, which included two 3-pointers from Ali Saunders, cut the Illinois State lead to 38-19, but the Redbirds got 3-pointers on their final two possessions of the half to lead 44-19 at intermission.
- Valpo played Illinois State even in the third quarter, thanks in large part to six strong minutes Jayda Johnston. Johnston came in and delivered 13 points in the third period alone, hitting all five of her field goal attempts.
- Johnston, who entered halftime scoreless, ended up leading the Beacons with 14 points on Friday — just two points off her career high.
- Saunders delivered strong offense off the bench as well, finishing with 13 points and connecting on three 3-pointers for the first time in her career.
- Ava Interrante finished with eight points and a team-high three steals as the Beacons registered 10 steals as a team — the third time in the last five games Valpo has recorded double-digit steals.
- Valpo shot just 32.6% from the field and was a season-worst 4-for-26 from the 3-point line.
- Sophomore Katie Beyer received her first career start on Friday.
- Valpo got out to a quick start to the game, outscoring the Badgers 12-2 over the game’s first 5:02. Junior Ava Interrante had a 3-pointer during the run, while junior Leah Earnest had seven points and an offensive rebound which kept a possession alive for a layup from sophomore Katie Beyer.
- The Beacons were held scoreless for the next eight-plus minutes, a stretch which saw Wisconsin go on a 20-0 run to take a 22-12 lead.
- A pair of free throws from senior Olivia Brown with 6:41 to play in the first half snapped the Badgers’ run and started an eight-point spurt of Valpo’s own, as two free throws by sophomore Olivia Sims made it a two-point game with 3:11 to go in the period.
- The two squads traded just one bucket apiece in the final three minutes of the half, with Wisconsin holding a slim 24-22 lead at intermission.
- The Badgers scored inside on each of their first three possessions of the second half to gain separation, pulling out to an eight-point lead, and Valpo was unable to make it a one-possession game the rest of the way.
- Making her return to her home state, Earnest enjoyed a strong performance against the Badgers Wednesday. The junior scored a team-best 16 points and dominated on the glass, pulling down a game-high 13 rebounds — just one off her career high.
- Earnest was the lone Beacon to score in double figures, however, as the Badgers limited Valpo to 31.3% shooting from the field and 5-of-23 from the 3-point line while forcing 22 turnovers.
- On the flip side, the Beacons held the hosts to 35.8% shooting — the second-lowest clip of the season by a Valpo opponent. The Badgers also were just 4-of-22 from the 3-point line.
- Ilysse Pitts joined Earnest in hitting the boards hard on Wednesday evening, coming down with eight rebounds. The eight boards ties her career high, set 89 games ago against North Dakota State in Dec. 2018 during her freshman season.
- The Beacons stay at the ARC for midweek action next week, welcoming UIC to town on Wednesday night.
- Valpo then heads down to Carbondale on Saturday for its lone matchup against Southern Illinois in the regular season.
...at the ARC
- Friday’s game is the 10th of 15 home games this season for Valpo and the fifth home MVC game.
- The Beacons are 2-7 at home so far this year and went 6-7 in home games last season.
- Bradley enters Sunday’s game at 3-17 overall this year and 0-9 in MVC play, most recently falling 52-38 on Friday to UIC.
- The Braves have dropped 12 in a row, with their last win coming on Dec. 6 at Eastern Illinois.
- Caroline Waite and Alex Rouse lead Bradley, averaging 11.8 and 11.3 points/game, respectively.
- It’s a much needed home-heavy stretch of games for Valpo over the next couple weeks.
- Starting with Friday’s game, Valpo plays five of its next six games at home, with a Feb. 4 road game at Southern Illinois the lone venture away from the ARC in the next three weeks.
- The stretch of five home games in 17 days comes after playing just one home game in the last 20 days.
- In fact, Valpo will play as many home games in this 17-day stretch as it played over the previous 66 days.
- Outside of the COVID-affected season of 2020-21, Valpo has not had five home games within a six-game span in league play since joining the Valley. This is the first time since playing five consecutive home Horizon League games Jan. 21-Feb. 6, 2016.
Second Half Scoring
- Remarkably, three different Valpo players have scored 14 or more points in a game this season after entering halftime scoreless.
- Most recently, Jayda Johnston dropped 14 points last time out in the second half against Illinois State after being held without a first-half point.
- Previously, Maya Dunson scored 14 second-half points against Indiana State and Ava Interrante went for 15 in the second half at Western Illinois following scoreless first halves.
- Johnston also did not miss a shot from the field, going 5-for-5 to become the first Valpo player with at least five makes without a miss since Carie Weinman went 6-for-6 against UNI on Feb. 28, 2020.
- 13 of Johnston’s 14 points on Friday came in 6:22 of playing time in the third quarter alone.
- The 13 points was the highest-scoring quarter by a Valpo player this season.
- Johnston became the fourth different Beacon to score at least 10 points in a single period this year.
- Most notably, Ali Saunders had a pair of double-digit periods against UAB - 10 points in the first quarter and 11 points in overtime.
- Olivia Brown had 11 points in the second quarter at Drake and 10 points in the fourth quarter against Western Michigan, while Maya Dunson had 11 points in the fourth quarter versus Indiana State.
Doubling Up Yet Again
- Junior Leah Earnest has been one of the Valley’s most effective rebounders this season, averaging 7.9 rebounds/game.
- She has posted seven double-figure rebounding performances this year - most recently a 13-board effort at Wisconsin.
- Earnest now owns the top-three individual rebounding efforts in head coach Mary Evans’ tenure with 14 against EIU and 13 against both UAB and Wisconsin.
- Earnest also scored a team-best 16 points on Wednesday against the Badgers, giving her six double-doubles this season 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 since the 2017-18 season. She is the first Valpo player with at least six double-doubles in a single campaign since Dani Franklin tallied eight during the 2016-17 season.
Improvement on the Glass
- This year’s Valpo team has been the best in terms of rebounding margin in the tenure of head coach Mary Evans, and the Beacons have been even better within conference play.
- In their eight nonconference games, the Beacons were a -5.3 in rebounding margin and surrendered 5.9 more offensive rebounds per game than they grabbed.
- But within MVC play, Valpo has been just -4.3 in rebounding margin and has surrendered just 2.0 more offensive rebounds per game than it has tallied.
- The win over Missouri State was especially notable - Valpo enjoyed a 28-23 advantage on the glass, a +5 edge that came against a Missouri State team which outrebounded the Beacons by a combined 36 boards in last season’s two matchups, and which had enjoyed a double-figure rebounding advantage in each of its last four games.
- The Lady Bears’ 23 rebounds were their lowest total since Feb. 11, 2018.
- Valpo’s loss at UIC on Josie Filer’s 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining was its second last-second defeat this season.
- The Beacons fell in overtime to UAB on Nov. 21 when the Blazers’ Maria Roters hit a layup with 3.3 seconds to play in the extra period.
- Prior to the UAB game, Valpo had not lost a game by a single possession since another heartbreaking defeat - a 74-73 loss to #25 Missouri State on Jan. 31, 2021 on three free throws with 0.8 seconds left.
- This year is the first time Valpo has lost multiple games on a last-second shot (inside the final five seconds) since 2010-11 - that year’s squad fell 69-67 at Evansville on a layup with 1.1 seconds remaining and 70-69 at Milwaukee on a jumper in the paint with 4.9 seconds to play.
Setting Career Bests
- Ilysse Pitts’ explosive performance against Missouri State, where she more than doubled her previous career best of 11 points with a 24-point game in the win over the Lady Bears, was just the latest in a string of career-best performances on the offensive end from Valpo players this year.
- A pair of Valpo players have set career highs in the scoring column this season despite being scoreless at halftime of the respective games - Maya Dunson versus Indiana State (14) and Ava Interrante at Western Illinois (15).
- Also in that WIU game, 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.
- Nine of Valpo’s 11 players who have seen action this season have tied or set career bests for scoring - 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.
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.