Valparaiso (0-6, 0-0 MVC)
Exhibition - December 7, 2023 - 6 p.m. - IU Northwest (5-4, 2-1 CCAC)
Game #7 - December 9, 2023 - 1 p.m. - Chicago State (0-13)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team steps onto its home court at the ARC for the only times in December this week with a pair of contests in a 43-hour span. The Beacons will first host IU Northwest on Thursday evening in an exhibition game before turning around to take on Chicago State on Saturday afternoon.
Previously: Junior Olivia Sims surpassed her career best with a 14-point outing Sunday, tying for team-high honors as the Beacons fell at Purdue by an 83-56 final. Leah Earnest tallied 14 points as well and added a team-best five rebounds, while Valpo racked up 13 total team steals.
Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN+
Valpo Radio: WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso
Links for live coverage: Available via ValpoAthletics.com
Head Coach Mary Evans: Mary Evans is in her sixth year at the helm of the program in 2022-23 and owns a record of 55-97. 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. The 2022-23 season saw Evans lead Valpo to the first win in program history over perennial MVC power Missouri State. The Beacons also won three consecutive road games in Valley play, the first time the program accomplished that feat against three different opponents since 2007.
Series Notes: Valpo and IU Northwest last met in exhibition action on Dec. 31, 2018, an 85-59 Valpo victory. Meredith Hamlet led five players in double figures with 16 points in that game, while Hannah Schaub tallied 11 points and eight assists.
Valpo enjoys a 39-6 advantage in the all-time series with Chicago State, the second-most common opponent in program history. On its home floor at the ARC, Valpo boasts a 20-1 record against the Cougars, including a 95-49 rout in the most recent matchup on Dec. 28, 2019. All 12 Valpo players who took the floor in that contest contributed on the scoresheet, led by 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench from Marlee Profitt.
- Valpo was picked to finish in 10th place in the MVC preseason poll, totaling 162 points, coming in ahead of Evansville and Bradley.
- Valpo is in its seventh season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Valley was ranked 13th in conference NET last season. The MVC ranked 10th in conference NET in 2021-22, seventh in conference NET in 2020-21 and was eighth in conference RPI in 2019-20.
...looking back at last year
- Valpo finished last season with a 7-23 overall record and finished at 5-15 in MVC play, good for 11th in the Valley standings.
- The Beacons earned their first win in program history over perennial MVC power Missouri State.
- Valpo also won three consecutive road games in Valley play, the first time the program accomplished that feat against three different opponents since 2007.
- Ali Saunders was named to the MVC All-Freshman Team.
- Valpo held Purdue to 34.6% shooting in the first half and forced 13 Boilermaker turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
- Purdue led 17-12 at the end of the first quarter and scored the final five points of the second quarter to go up 33-25 at halftime.
- Leah Earnest scored the first basket of the second half to pull the Beacons back within six, but Purdue went on an 11-0 run over the next four minutes to gain separation.
- Purdue’s lead was 54-38 at the end of the third period, and the Beacons were unable to get any closer than 14 points in the fourth quarter.
- Olivia Sims came off the bench to surpass her previous career high of 12 points with a 14-point afternoon. She also tied her career best with five field goals made.
- Sims shared team-high scoring honors with Earnest, who tallied 14 points of her own, including a 3-for-4 game from the 3-point line.
- For the fourth time this year, the Beacons reached double figures as a team in steals, racking up 13 thefts. Raeven Raye-Redmond led the way with a game-high four steals, while Ava Interrante posted a season-best three steals.
- Valpo shot just 34.5% (19-of-55) from the field, while the Boilermakers hit at a 49.1% (28-of-57) clip. Both teams connected on eight 3-pointers.
...at Western Michigan
- WMU led 18-17 at the end of the first quarter, but Valpo pulled ahead 24-18 at intermission.
- The Broncos used a 12-0 run to lead by as many as six in the third quarter, and WMU was ahead 46-45 with 10 minutes to play.
- WMU extended its lead to as many as eight points early in the fourth quarter, but Valpo rallied to retake the lead with 4:24 to play.
- The Broncos were back in front 64-60 with 2:40 to go before six straight for the Beacons - capped by a 3-pointer from Nevaeh Jackson - gave them a 66-64 lead with 1:39 to play.
- It was still 66-64 Valpo when Ava Interrante took a charge with four seconds remaining. The Beacons split a pair of free throws after an immediate foul on the inbounds to make it a 3-point game, but WMU’s Kaiden Glenn banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.
- Valpo never led in overtime, as its only field goal came on a triple by Olivia Brown with 2:06 to play which tied the game at 70-70. The Beacons had three possessions in the final 90 seconds with a chance to tie or take the lead, but they went 0-for-3 from the floor and committed a pair of turnovers on those possessions.
- The Beacons hit at a season-best clip from inside the arc, going 23-of-41 (56.1%) from 2-point range as they enjoyed a 46-28 edge in points in the paint. They were just 4-of-16 from 3-point range, however.
- Meanwhile, Valpo limited WMU to 38.7% shooting from the field, but the Broncos hit 10-of-23 from 3-point range.
- Leah Earnest paced Valpo with 22 points and added a game-high 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the year.
- Valpo will be off for 10 days following the matchup with Chicago State to allow for final exams.
- The Beacons will play their final pre-Christmas games down in DeLand, Fla., facing Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 19 and host Stetson on Dec. 20.
...at the ARC
- Valpo will play 12 regular season home games during the 2023-24 campaign, just two of those nonconference contests.
- The Beacons are 0-1 at home so so far this year and posted a 3-12 record at home last season.
- IU Northwest enters the week with a 5-4 overall record and a 2-1 record in CCAC play, with a Tuesday night game against Indiana Wesleyan on the docket before the RedHawks visit the ARC.
- Just five RedHawks players have seen action in all nine games to date, with Makayla Best leading that group, averaging 13.6 points/game.
- It’s been a busy early-season schedule for the Cougars, who come into the ARC Saturday at 0-13 on the season.
- Saturday’s game will be Chicago State’s third against an MVC opponent this season, as the Cougars have fallen to Evansville (103-102, 3ot) and Illinois State (102-47).
- Jacia Cunningham leads CSU with 13.8 points/game and has also dished out a team-best 25 assists.
A Challenging Early Schedule
- Valpo’s early-season schedule has been deceptively strong.
- Five of the Beacons’ six opponents to date have winning records, and the group as a whole (as of Tuesday) has a winning percentage this season of .667 (30-15).
- Included among that group is a 7-0 Southern Miss team which defeated then-#19 Ole Miss last weekend, as well as Western Illinois (7-1) and UAB (6-2) with winning percentages of .750 or better.
Homesick No More
- This week provides the lone chances to catch the Beacons at home this month, as the team is in the midst of a stretch where they play nine out of 10 regular season games away from home.
- Since hosting Western Illinois Nov. 18, Valpo played four consecutive true road games coming into this week.
- Then, after taking on the Cougars Saturday, the Beacons will play five more in a row away from home - including their first three games of the MVC slate - before finally returning home Jan. 12 against Drake.
- Do the math, and the game against Chicago State will be Valpo’s lone regular season home game in a stretch of 55 days.
Career Days for Earnest
- Heading into Valpo’s Nov. 25 game at UAB, senior Leah Earnest had a career high in the scoring column of 20 points.
- Earnest then outdid that mark in consecutive games.
- She smashed her previous career best at UAB, pouring in 26 points, including matching her career high with three 3-pointers.
- 12 of Earnest’s points against the Blazers came during a 17-3 Valpo run spanning the third and fourth quarters, which cut a 17-point deficit to three points.
- Then t Western Michigan, Earnest scored 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting, setting a career best for field goals made. She also grabbed 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the year.
- Earnest has scored in double figures in each of Valpo’s first six games of the season and is averaging 16.2 points/game, sixth in the Valley. She also is averaging 7.8 rebounds/game, sixth among Valley players, and is one of three players who ranks among the MVC’s top-six in both scoring and rebounding.
I’ll Take That
- Twice in the season’s first four games, the Beacons had a player rack up eight steals in a game.
- At UAB, it was freshman Saniya Jackson coming off the bench to tally eight thefts - one in the first quarter, three in the second quarter and four in the fourth quarter.
- Jackson matched the feat of fellow rookie Raeven Raye-Redmond, who posted eight steals of her own in her collegiate debut against Western Illinois Nov. 18.
- Jackson and Raye-Redmond are two of just 16 D-I players nationally to record eight or more steals in a single game so far this season.
- The duo are now tied for second on Valpo’s single-game steals chart, just one off the program single-game record.
- Prior to this year, the last Valpo player to tally eight steals in a game was Jeanette Gray against Houston in the 2002 WNIT.
- Raye-Redmond was the first MVC player to record eight steals in a game since UNI’s Ellie Herzberg did so against Indiana State on Feb. 19, 2017.
Stealing It All
- Led by Raye-Redmond’s eight steals, Valpo tallied 18 total team steals Nov. 18 against Western Illinois.
- Leah Earnest (3) and Saniya Jackson (2) also registered multiple thefts, as eight Beacons in all recorded at least one steal.
- The 18 steals is the program’s best single-game mark since tallying 21 steals at Evansville on Jan. 12, 2020, and is tied for the second-highest output in Evans’ tenure as head coach.
- At UAB, paced by Jackson’s eight steals, Valpo racked up 16 team steals.
- Seven different players picked up at least one theft, with Olivia Brown setting her best mark in the Valpo uniform with a three-steal afternoon.
- The Beacons were in double figures in steals both games last week as well, tallying 10 steals at Western Michigan and 13 steals at Purdue. They have now posted double-figure steals in four of six games this sesason.
- Per HerHoopStats.com, Valpo ranks 14th nationally in steal rate, while Raeven Raye-Redmond is one of just three players nationally playing at least 10 minutes/game with a steal rate of better than 8% (Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo; Minnesota’s Niamya Holloway).
Approaching a Milestone
- Fifth-year guard Olivia Brown is approaching the 1,000-point milestone for her collegiate career.
- Brown scored eight points last time out at Purdue, giving her 976 career points.
- In her third season at Valpo, Brown has scored 610 of those points in the Valpo uniform.
- Brown’s .397 career 3-point percentage at Valpo ranks third in program history.
Prolific in the Paint
- For those in tune with Valpo’s offensive scheme, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the Beacons’ 2-point field goals come from inside the paint.
- So far this season, however, it has been even more pronounced.
- Through six games, Valpo has made 85 2-point field goals - 83 of which have been registered as field goals in the paint.
- The only exceptions are a Leah Earnest shot at Eastern Illinois which was input as being shot from the block on the edge of the lane line, and an Ava Interrante runner to beat the shot clock last time out at Purdue.
- At Western Michigan, the Beacons enjoyed their most prolific game inside the arc to date this season, as they went 23-for-41 (.561) on 2-point attempts.
- Raye-Redmond’s effort against WIU was the second straight strong collegiate debut by a Valpo player, as freshman Nevaeh Jackson enjoyed a nice start to her collegiate career in the season opener at Eastern Illinois.
- Jackson played 22 minutes off the bench at EIU, going 4-of-8 from the field - including 3-of-6 from 3-point range - for 11 points while also adding three rebounds and two assists.
- The 11 points is the best mark for a Valpo freshman in their first collegiate game since Bryce Blood scored 13 against IU Kokomo in the 2017-18 season opener.
- It is the best mark for a freshman in their first collegiate game against a D-I program since Dani Franklin kicked off her stellar career with 14 points in a win over Butler to start the 2014-15 season.
- Jackson went on to start at Southern Miss, the earliest a true freshman has started in her Valpo career since 2017-18.
- The Beacons return the majority of production from last year’s squad.
- Three of Valpo’s top four scorers from the 2022-23 season are back for the 2023-24 campaign.
- In all, Valpo returns 64.7% of its minutes played, 66.4% of its scoring and 72.1% of its rebounding from the 2022-23 team.
- This year’s squad features eight returnees from last year’s team.
- Headlining Valpo’s returnees is fifth-year guard Olivia Brown. The Beacons’ leading scorer last year at 12.0 points/game, Brown was one of the Valley’s top shooters, ranking third in the conference in 3-point percentage and sixth in 3-pointers/game.
- Brown enters the 2023-24 campaign just 75 points away from hitting 1,000 points for her collegiate career.
- Senior forward Leah Earnest took a leap forward last season, averaging 9.8 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game — the latter mark good for sixth in the Valley. Earnest was especially proficient on the defensive glass, with a defensive rebounding rate of 28.3% — 13th-best nationally among players with at least 100 defensive boards.
- Junior Olivia Sims was Valpo’s fourth-leading scorer last year, averaging 5.0 points/game.
- Senior Ava Interrante (4.1 ppg, 29 steals), senior Jayda Johnston (3.8 ppg), redshirt senior Emma Tecca (3.0 ppg), junior Katie Beyer (2.0 ppg) and redshirt sophomore Ella Van Weelden (1.6 ppg) all return as well for the 2023-24 season.
- Nearly half the Valpo roster is new to the program this season, with the vast majority of those newcomers true freshmen.
- The lone incoming transfer was fifth-year point guard Jill Harris. Harris most recently played one season at Johnson C. Smith. She was a SoCon All-Freshman Team selection as a rookie at Mercer in 2019-20 and helped the Bears to the NCAA Tournament in 2020-21.
- Valpo welcomes its first Indiana All-Star to the program since 2017, as Indianapolis native Layla Gold earned the prestigious honor last season.
- Gold is one of four All-State high school players new to the roster this season. Twins Nevaeh and Saniya Jackson, out of Northrop [Ind.] H.S., were both First Team All-State selections as seniors, while Raeven Raye-Redmond earned Second Team All-State honors out of Trotwood Madison [Ohio] H.S.
- Kayla Preston joins the Beacons as a true freshman as well after helping lead Millard North [Neb.] H.S. to a state semifinal appearance as a senior.