February 11, 20241st2nd3rd4thFinal
Stats at a GlanceEvansVALPO
FG Percentage.439 (25-57) .365 (23-63)
3P FG Percentage.333 (4-12) .231 (6-26)
FT Percentage.773 (17-22) .941 (16-17)
Offensive Rebounds810
Defensive Rebounds2727
Total Rebounds3537
Bench Points919
PointsThomas - 23
Brown - 19
ReboundsThomas - 14
Earnest - 12
AssistsMason Striverson - 5
Jackson - 4
StealsGerke - 3
Gold - 4
BlocksThomas - 3
Gold - 6
Women's Basketball Looks to Bounce Back Sunday Versus Evansville
Friday, February 9, 2024
Women's Basketball Looks to Bounce Back Sunday Versus Evansville

Valparaiso (4-16, 3-8 MVC)
Game #21 - February 11, 2024 - 1 p.m.
Evansville (2-20, 0-11 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.

Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team looks for a bounce-back performance on Sunday as the Beacons conclude their home weekend against visiting Evansville.

Previously: Trailing by 15 points with 6:28 to play Friday evening at the ARC against Indiana State, it would have been easy for Valpo to pack it in. The Beacons dug their heels in and nearly erased the Sycamores’ entire lead, getting to within two points with 2:41 to play, but Valpo wasn’t able to take the final step to complete the rally, as Indiana State left the ARC with a 70-65 victory.

Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN+
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 2023-24 and owns a record of 59-107. Evans has made an impact on the program in her first five 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 leads the all-time series over the Purple Aces 16-10 and owns an 8-5 advantage against Evansville inside the ARC. These two teams met just two weeks ago, with the Beacons earning a 70-59 road win in the first meeting of the season. Leah Earnest led Valpo in that effort with 19 points, while Nevaeh Jackson tallied 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

...and @ValleyHoops
- 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.

...versus Indiana State
... Valpo connected on its first six shots of the game to lead 15-10 midway through the first quarter.
- The Sycamores scored 10 of the final 13 points of the opening period to lead 20-18 at the end of the first.
- ISU led 33-31 at intermission and used a 10-0 run midway through the third quarter to enter the final period with a 54-43 advantage.
- The Sycamores’ lead reached its apex at 62-47 with 6:28 to play, but Valpo got five straight defensive stops along with five different players scoring in a six-possession stretch for a 13-0 run which made it 62-60 with 2:41 to play.
- Valpo was called for fouls which put ISU on the line three straight times down the court, and the Sycamores took advantage, going 6-of-6 from the stripe in that stretch.
- Still, the Beacons were within three with 1:03 to go following a driving layup from Leah Earnest. Needing a stop to get the ball with a chance to tie the game, Valpo forced a missed shot, but a backbreaking offensive rebound led to an open layup for the Sycamores.
- The Beacons had six looks at the basket in the final 30 seconds in an effort to make it a one-possession game yet again, but were unable to get any of them to fall.
- Three Beacons scored in double figures, led by a 16-point night from Earnest, who scored in double digits for the 18th time in 20 games this year. Earnest also tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds and handed out a team-best three assists.
- Brown delivered 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting off the bench, her fourth effort of 10+ points in the five games since her return from injury.
- Saniya Jackson notched 12 points, hitting double figures for the ninth time this year. Jackson also tied her season high with seven rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end.
- The teams’ shooting marks were pretty evenly matched, as ISU shot 44.9% (22-of-49) to Valpo’s 40.7% (22-of-54) clip. The Beacons hit nine triples to the Sycamores’ seven, but ISU was able to take advantage of more trips to the foul line, going 19-of-23 at the charity stripe to Valpo’s 12-of-16.

...at UIC
- UIC led 18-16 at the end of the first quarter and 32-24 at halftime. The Flames’ lead reached as many as nine points in the third quarter before Valpo closed to within 49-47 with 10 minutes to play.
- UIC pushed its lead to 56-50 with 6:58 to play, but the Beacons put together a 14-2 run over the next 3:48 to flip the script and take a 64-58 lead with 3:10 remaining.
- The Flames scored five points on their next two possessions to make it a one-possession game, and after the teams traded baskets, a Sara Zabrecky 3-pointer put UIC ahead 68-66 with 24 seconds left.
- After a Valpo miss, UIC split a pair of free throws to make it a 3-point game, setting up Nevaeh Jackson to hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.0 seconds to play.
- The Beacons were called for a foul with 4.1 seconds left on the ensuing inbounds - the Flames hit the first free throw to take the lead, but missed the second. Valpo secured the rebound and called timeout, but not before the clock had wound down to 1.5 seconds.
- Jackson triggered the inbounds in the frontcourt and hit Earnest on the near side, 15 feet from the basket. Jackson’s pass eluded Earnest’s defender’s lunging stab at a steal, and with the back side cleared out, Earnest turned, took one dribble and had an uncontested layup at the rim for the buzzer-beater.
- Earnest’s buzzer-beater for the win was Valpo’s first since Meredith Hamlet connected on a layup at the buzzer for a win at Chicago State Nov. 16, 2016.
- The basket capped a 20-point night for the senior, who hit the 20-point mark for the sixth time this season. Earnest also paced Valpo with seven rebounds and a career-high tying six assists as well.
- Nevaeh Jackson was responsible for nearly half of Valpo’s season-best 14 3-pointers, as the rookie went 6-for-9 from behind the 3-point line — coming up one point shy of her career best with 18 points.
- The Beacons set a season low by committing just 12 turnovers. After averaging 20.4 turnovers/game through the season’s first 14 games, Valpo has averaged just 14.6 turnovers/game over the last five contests.
- Sunday’s win came over a UIC team which entered the game with a 12-8 record on the year and with a winning record in Valley play.

...looking ahead
- Next weekend brings the central Illinois road swing, with visits to Bradley and Illinois State.

...at the ARC
- Valpo will play 12 regular season home games during the 2023-24 campaign. Sunday is the Beacons’ eighth home game of the season.
- The Beacons are 2-5 at home so far this year and posted a 3-12 record at home last season.

- Evansville comes into Sunday’s game with a 2-20 overall record this year.
- The Purple Aces are still searching for their first Valley win, as they’re 0-11 in conference play, most recently falling 65-57 at UIC Friday night.
- Kynidi Mason Striverson leads UE on the year, averaging 13.1 points/game and 3.8 assists/game, while Nevaeh Thomas has scored a team-high 13.8 points/game in Valley play.

Swatting Shots
- Valpo had a season-best seven blocked shots Friday evening versus Indiana State, led by freshman Layla Gold, who rejected a season-high four shots.
- It was the first four-block game by a Valpo player since Grace White tallied four blocks versus Evansville in January 2022, and the first four-block effort by a Valpo freshman since Bryce Blood totaled four rejections at Purdue in December 2017.
- The seven blocks marks the highest team total since the aforementioned Evansville game as well.

Starting Strong
- The Beacons went over five minutes before missing a shot from the floor on Friday against Indiana State, hitting their first six efforts as part of a 15-10 start to the game.
- It is the second time this year Valpo has opened a game with at least six straight makes without a miss, as it started 7-for-7 from the field in the December win over Chicago State.

A Dramatic Win
- Sunday’s win at UIC went right down to the wire, as Leah Earnest converted a layup at the buzzer to give Valpo the 71-70 win.
- It was Valpo’s buzzer-beating victory first since Meredith Hamlet connected on a layup at the buzzer for a win at Chicago State Nov. 16, 2016.
- The one-point win was the program’s first victory by a single point since a 61-60 win at Northern Kentucky Dec. 30, 2015.

Hitting From Downtown
- Valpo had its best shooting day of the season from behind the 3-point line in the win over the Flames.
- The Beacons went 14-for-29 from downtown, season bests for both 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage (.483).
- The 14 triples are tied for ninth-most in a single game in program history.
- Valpo has hit 14 or more 3-pointers in a single game 22 times in program history, 13 of which have come in the tenure of head coach Mary Evans.
- The Beacons have connected on at least 10 triples five times this season, three of which have come in wins.

A Freshman Standard
- Leading the barrage from deep in the win over UIC was freshman Nevaeh Jackson, who finished the game 6-of-9 from 3-point range.
- Jackson hit three of her triples in the fourth quarter, including her final 3-pointer with five seconds to play which tied the game and set the stage for the eventual buzzer-beater.
- The six 3-pointers were the most by a Valpo player in a single game this year and came up just one shy of cracking the program’s single-game top-10 chart.
- Jackson matched Valpo’s record for 3-pointers in a game by a freshman with her six triples, last accomplished by Meredith Hamlet at Oakland Feb. 11, 2016.
- Jackson became the first MVC freshman to hit at least six 3-pointers in a win since Bradley’s Lasha Petree at Omaha Dec. 14, 2018. She is the first to do so in a conference win since UNI’s Madison Weekly at Loyola Feb. 21, 2014.

Nothing But Net
- Olivia Brown attempted four 3-pointers at UIC on Sunday - one in the first quarter, one in the second quarter and two in the fourth quarter - and connected on all four of them.
- It is the second time this year a Valpo player has been a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range in a game, as Ella Van Weelden did the same in the win over Bradley.
- The 4-for-4 effort from deep lifted Brown’s season 3-point percentage to .408 - third-best in the Valley - while she has hit at a .538 clip from deep in MVC play.

Happy Returns
- Over the last couple weeks, Valpo has been bolstered by returns to action from a pair of key players.
- In the Jan. 21 win over Bradley, fifth-year guard Olivia Brown returned to the court after missing four games with an ankle injury.
- Then, Jan. 28 at Evansville, fifth-year point guard Jill Harris saw nine minutes of action off the bench - her first playing time since Nov. 25, as she missed 13 games with a concussion.

A Big Win
- There was no drama in Valpo’s first Valley win of the year, as the Beacons led Bradley by as many as 34 points in the second half on their way to the 79-55 victory.
- Valpo’s 24-point margin of victory was its largest since beating Western Michigan 75-51 in December 2020.
- It was the program’s largest margin of victory in MVC play since a 93-49 win over Evansville in January 2019.
- The Beacons held Bradley to 55 points, a season low for their opponents. The Braves shot just 29.1% from the floor, the lowest mark by a Valpo opponent since Illinois State shot just 28.8% in January 2021.

Another Strong Performance
- Senior Leah Earnest capped another standout game last Sunday with her buzzer-beater.
- Earnest paced Valpo with 20 points and seven rebounds in the win, while also leading all players with six assists.
- All six of Earnest’s assists came on Beacon 3-pointers, meaning she had a direct hand in 38 of Valpo’s 71 points.
- Per HerHoopStats.com, there have been only three single-game performances by MVC players this year with at least 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the same game — Earnest is responsible for two of those, also hitting those marks in the win over Bradley.
- Over Valpo’s last six games, Earnest is averaging 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. She has led Valpo in scoring in each of the last six games and in rebounding in each of the last eight games.

Another Leap Forward
- Earnest’s recent efforts have been part of a stellar step forward for the senior this season.
- Earnest enters Sunday’s game ranked seventh in the conference in scoring (15.1).
- She is just outside the Valley’s top-10 in rebounding with a team-best 6.9 rebounds/game and is also averaging a team-best 2.9 assists/game as well.
- Earnest is on pace to become the first Valpo player since Debbie Bolen in 1991-92 to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists.
- Earnest has been consistent, scoring in double figures in 18 of 20 games to date.
- Earnest entered this season with a career high of 20 in the scoring column, but has hit that mark or better six times this year, including a career-best 26 points at UAB.
- Earnest surpassed the 500-rebound mark for her career in the MVC opener at Missouri State, becoming the 19th player in program history with 500 career boards. She enters Sunday’s game ranked 16th in program history with 564 career rebounds, just seven boards shy of a tie for 14th.
- Earnest posted 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in Valpo’s win over Bradley - in single-game records dating back to the late 1980’s, no Valpo player has ever hit all three of those marks in the same game.
- Earnest is one of just three Division I players this season to reach all three of those marks in the same game — Iowa’s Caitlin Clark did so against Loyola, while Abilene Christian’s Bella Earle did so against California Baptist. She is also one of just two MVC players to post a stat line like that in the last 13 seasons.

Youth in the Lineup
- The Beacons’ starting lineup has been 60% comprised of freshmen since Valpo’s second game of the MVC slate.
- Layla Gold made her first collegiate start at Southern Illinois, joining Saniya Jackson and Nevaeh Jackson in the starting five.
- It was the first time Valpo has started three freshmen since March 11, 2016, when Hannah Schaub, Meredith Hamlet and Amber Lindfors were in the starting lineup against Northern Kentucky.
- Gold’s insertion into the lineup was necessitated after Olivia Brown suffered an injury in the fourth quarter of the previous game at Missouri State which kept her out against the Salukis. It was the first game Brown had missed in her three years at Valpo, snapping a streak of 71 consecutive games played.

Thievery Abounds
- Valpo averages 9.7 steals/game and has been in double figures in steals in eight games this season, highlighted by an 18-steal effort against Western Illinois Nov. 18.
- The 18 steals was 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.
- Freshman Raeven Raye-Redmond currently ranks eighth in the Valley with 1.9 steals/game, while fellow rookie Saniya Jackson is 10th in the MVC with 1.8 steals/game.
- Both Jackson and Raye-Redmond have had an eight-steal game this season - Jackson did so Nov. 25 at UAB and Raye-Redmond did so in her collegiate debut in the aforementioned Western Illinois game.
- 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.