The Valpo women’s basketball team had plenty of early gifts for fans in the attendance at the ARC for Saturday’s Christmas party, as the Beacons started out hitting their first seven shots from the field as they never trailed in an 83-64 victory over Chicago State. Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) was one point off her career high, finishing with 23 points, while Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) was right behind her with 21 points.
How It Happened
- The tone was set right from the outset by Earnest, who had a steal and fast-break layup within the game’s opening 30 seconds.
- Earnest had three of Valpo’s first seven baskets as the Beacons started out 7-of-7 from the floor. Saniya Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) had a pair of fast-break layups in that run as well, the second of which capped a 14-4 run over the game’s first 3:51 and forced a Chicago State timeout.
- Valpo’s lead grew to 13 points late in the quarter on a triple from Ava Interrante (McHenry, Ill./McHenry), and the Beacons led 25-14 at the end of the opening period.
- Jackson drilled a 3-pointer on Valpo’s first possession of the second quarter to push the advantage to 14 points. The Cougars scored the next five points, but Ella Van Weelden (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Marion) kept CSU from extending its run with a well-timed 3-pointer with 7:26 to play in the first half.
- Valpo was unable to push its lead in the second quarter past the 14-point mark from early in the period, but the Beacons also prevented CSU from closing any closer than eight points. Valpo eventually went into the locker room for halftime with a 36-27 lead.
- Valpo’s first offensive possession of the third quarter was a harbinger of things to come in multiple facets, as Brown connected on a 3-pointer.
- Incredibly, much like the first quarter, the Beacons scored on their first seven possessions of the third quarter — albeit with some free throws and missed shots with offensive rebounds mixed in.
- Earnest had six points during the opening stretch to the third period, while Brown later hit 3-pointers following offensive boards on consecutive possessions, the second of which extended Valpo’s lead to 54-33 with 4:58 to play in the quarter.
- After a few empty possessions, Brown drove and finished at the basket on one trip and followed with yet another triple the next time down the court. The veteran then came up with a steal on the defensive end and fed Nevaeh Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) for a fast-break layup which pushed Valpo’s lead to 61-35 with just over two minutes remaining in the period.
- The Beacons led 64-41 at the end of the third quarter and kept CSU at bay through the entirety of the fourth quarter, as the Cougars got no closer than 18 points.
Inside the Game
- The 83 points Valpo scored on Saturday was the program’s highest scoring output since an 86-84 win over Bradley Feb. 10, 2022.
- Leading the way in the scoring column was Brown, who finished with 23 points — including four 3-pointers — to go with three assists and three steals.
- Brown finished just one point shy of her career high, as well as just one point away from hitting the 1,000-point milestone for her collegiate career.
- 14 of Brown’s 23 points came in the third quarter, the highest-scoring quarter by a Valpo player since Shay Frederick dropped 17 points on Southern Illinois in the second quarter of their Feb. 27, 2021 matchup.
- It was the eighth double-digit quarter of Brown’s Valpo career.
- Earnest nearly matched Brown’s output, finishing with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting — her third 20-point effort of the season. The senior also set a career high with six assists and added three steals as well.
- Earnest scored 12 points in the game’s opening 10 minutes, her highest-scoring quarter in the Valpo uniform and the third time she has scored 10 or more in a quarter.
- Brown and Earnest are the first Valpo duo to both have double-digit quarters in the same game since Grace White scored 10 third-quarter points and Carie Weinman scored 13 fourth-quarter points in the aforementioned Bradley game.
- Saniya Jackson was perfect from the field, connecting on all six of her field goal attempts in a 14-point afternoon — her season high and the third time she has been in double figures in her young collegiate career.
- Interrante added nine points and a career-best six rebounds to tie for team-high honors with Van Weelden, who was one shy of her career high in the category.
- Freshman Layla Gold (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) connected on her first collegiate field goal when she knocked down a 3-pointer on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
- The Beacons recorded a season-best 11 3-pointers and had a season-best shooting performance inside the arc, going 18-for-26 (.692) on 2-point attempts.
- When Valpo did miss shots on Saturday, it was nearly a 50-50 proposition that the Beacons would retain possession, as they grabbed 16 available offensive rebounds on 34 opportunities. The 16 offensive boards are a program high in the Mary Evans era.
- Valpo forced 22 Chicago State turnovers, converting those into 30 points as the Beacons held a 30-16 advantage in points off turnovers. 14 of the Cougars’ turnovers were Valpo steals, the fourth straight game Valpo has tallied double figures in the steals column.
- Saturday’s game was Valpo’s lone regular season home game between Nov. 18 and Jan. 12.
Postgame Press Conference - Head Coach Mary Evans, Olivia Brown, Leah Earnest
Valpo (1-6) breaks for final exams next week and returns to the court Tuesday, Dec. 19, taking on Bethune-Cookman at Stetson.