The Valpo women’s basketball team hosted its annual Play4Kay game Sunday afternoon at the ARC, with visiting UNI earning an 83-60 victory. Freshman Ali Saunders (Depauw, Ind./North Harrison) delivered the best shooting performance by a Valpo player in nearly two decades in the losing effort.
How It Happened
- UNI jumped out to an early four-point lead, but a 7-1 stretch for the Beacons — featuring a triple from Saunders and layups by juniors Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) and Jayda Johnston (Roseville, Minn./Roseville Area) — gave Valpo a 13-11 lead with 2:11 to play in the opening period.
- The Panthers closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to go ahead 19-13 at the end of 10 minutes.
- Valpo scored the first two baskets of the second quarter to pull back to within two, and was still within four at 25-21 with 6:43 to play in the first half following a bucket from Saunders.
- UNI gradually pulled away, outscoring the Beacons 12-5 the remainder of the half to take a 37-26 lead into halftime.
- It was all Panthers to start the second half, as they scored on five of their first seven possessions of the half for a 14-2 run which gave them a 51-28 lead.
- Valpo came right back with a big run of its own, started by a 3-pointer from fifth-year Maya Dunson (Dayton, Ohio/Wayne [Loyola]). The Beacons then got three consecutive run-out baskets on the break, as steals and layups by fifth-year Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) and Saunders sandwiched a defensive rebound and coast-to-coast move by Earnest.
- A driving layup by Earnest with 4:12 to play in the third quarter capped an 11-0 Valpo run and made it a 51-39 game, as close as the Beacons had been since intermission.
- But UNI scored 10 of the quarter’s final 11 points to lead 61-40 at the end of the third, and Valpo got no closer in the final quarter.
Inside the Game
- Saunders tied for game-high honors with 19 points, the second-highest output of her career, but it was the efficient manner in which she did it that was so impressive. Making just her second career start, Saunders knocked down all seven of her field goal attempts — including one 3-pointer — and was also a perfect 4-for-4 at the foul line.
- Saunders is the first Valpo player with a 100% field goal percentage on at least seven attempts since Tamra Braun went 10-for-10 at Oakland on Jan. 3, 2004.
- The freshman also handed out four assists on Sunday. Saunders is one of only four D-I players nationally with a game this season where they have gone 7-of-7 or better from the field and also dished out at least four assists.
- Making her first start in a Valpo uniform, redshirt junior Emma Tecca (Tallamadge, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban [Akron]) smashed her previous season high with 12 points, a mark which matches her career best. Tecca, who also set a season best with three rebounds, hit a pair of 3-pointers and was 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
- 10 of Tecca’s 12 points came in the fourth quarter alone, making her the fifth different Valpo player this season to pour in 10 or more points in a single period.
- All 11 players who have seen action for the Beacons this season have matched or set their career single-game scoring high.
- Earnest joined Saunders and Tecca in double figures with 10 points off the bench and also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season.
- Earnest is the first Valpo player with eight double-doubles in a season since Dani Franklin tallied eight during the 2016-17 campaign.
- Valpo and UNI shot at nearly identical clips from the field Sunday — Valpo 41.8% and UNI 41.7%. But the Panthers were 9-of-20 from deep versus the Beacons’ 4-of-18 mark, and UNI also went 24-of-28 from the foul line versus Valpo’s 10-of-14.
- The Beacons outscored the Panthers in the paint, 36-28.
Postgame Press Conference With Head Coach Mary Evans and Ali Saunders
After playing five out of six at the ARC, Valpo (4-19, 2-12 MVC) will venture on the road for its next four games, beginning Friday evening at 5 p.m. CT at Indiana State.