February 17, 20241st2nd3rd4thFinal
Illinois St.1618152978
Stats at a GlanceVALPOILS
FG Percentage.333 (19-57) .426 (20-47)
3P FG Percentage.333 (9-27) .421 (8-19)
FT Percentage.850 (17-20) .833 (30-36)
Offensive Rebounds85
Defensive Rebounds2431
Total Rebounds3236
Bench Points1023
PointsEarnest - 32
Wilson - 19
ReboundsEarnest - 13
Wilson - 12
AssistsJackson - 3
Lenz - 3
Bullman - 3
StealsJackson - 3
Dowell - 1
Aalsma - 1
Wong - 1
BlocksGold - 2
Bullman - 3
Earnest’s Career Night Not Enough as Illinois State Rallies in Fourth Quarter to Down Beacons
Saturday, February 17, 2024
Earnest’s Career Night Not Enough as Illinois State Rallies in Fourth Quarter to Down Beacons
Leah Earnest scores two of her career-high 32 points Saturday.

Already enjoying a tremendous season, Valpo women’s basketball senior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) hit a new level on Saturday afternoon, pouring in a career-high 32 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, but it proved not to be enough for the win in the end, as host Illinois State came from behind in the fourth quarter to deal the Beacons a 78-64 defeat.

How It Happened

  • Valpo got off to a dream start on Saturday, opening the game on a 13-0 run over the first 3:06 of action. Earnest had the first five points of the spurt and seven in all, while Ava Interrante (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) connected on a triple during that stretch and Nevaeh Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) hit a shot clock-beating 3-pointer to force an ISU timeout just over three minutes in.
  • The Redbirds rallied, getting as close as five points late in the period. A 3-pointer from Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) helped the Beacons to a 22-16 lead at the end of the opening period.
  • Valpo’s attempts to pull away in the second quarter were thwarted by ISU, as the Beacons got out to eight and nine-point advantages before the Redbirds rallied to stay within striking distance.
  • ISU actually tied the score at 32-32 with under two minutes to play in the half, but Earnest scored Valpo’s last five points of the half — including a buzzer-beating midrange jumper to cap a 21-point half – to give the Beacons a 37-34 lead at intermission.
  • Valpo led for much of the third quarter, but again was unable to pull away from the Redbirds. A 3-pointer by Saniya Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) with 3:25 remaining in the period put the Beacons ahead 48-44, but Valpo went scoreless the remainder of the quarter as ISU scored the final five points to lead 49-48 with 10 minutes to play.
  • Valpo regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Emma Tecca (Tallmadge, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban [Akron]) 14 seconds into the fourth quarter and extended its advantage to five points on a Tecca triple as the clock ticked inside of eight minutes.
  • A layup by Earnest with 7:03 to play made it 57-53 Beacons, and another basket by the senior on the fast break restored the five-point edge at 59-54 with 6:17 to go.
  • Illinois State went on a decisive 20-0 run over the next 4:30 despite making just three field goals in that stretch.

Inside the Game

  • Earnest, who entered the game with a career high of 26 points, flew past that mark on Saturday as she finished with 32 points. The senior tied her career high with 10 field goals made and went 10-of-12 from the foul line to set a career best for made free throws.
  • The 32 points are tied for the most by a Valpo player in the last seven seasons. Earnest came up just one point shy of cracking the program’s single-game top-10 chart.
  • 21 of Earnest’s points came in the first half, 14 of those in the second quarter — it was the eighth double-figure quarter by a Valpo player this season, four of which have been achieved by Earnest.
  • Earnest also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds — one shy of a career best — for her sixth double-double of the season. She is the first Valpo player with a 30-point double-double since Tabitha Gerardot went for 33 and 18 versus Wright State Feb. 28, 2013.
  • Earnest is one of just 20 D-I players to reach 32 points and 13 rebounds in the same game this year and is the sole MVC player to do so. Notably, Earnest is one of just two Valley players in the last decade (SIU’s Abby Brockmeyer, Dec. 2021 versus Eastern Illinois) to reach those marks
  • Earnest jumped two spots on Valpo’s career rebounding chart up to 12th, having now corralled 597 career boards. She also cracked the program’s career top-20 in scoring, and is closing in on the 1,000-point club, entering next week with 974 points.
  • Saniya Jackson joined Earnest in double figures with 10 points, her fourth consecutive double-digit scoring effort and her 12th of the season. Jackson also paced Valpo with three steals.
  • The Beacons shot just 33.3% for the game, compared to a 42.6% clip for Illinois State. Valpo did hit one more triple than the Redbirds, connecting on nine 3-pointers.
  • Valpo continued its recent strong shooting from the foul line, going 17-of-20 (85%) from the charity stripe. Illinois State took advantage of more trips to the line, however, going 30-of-36 on free throws. The -16 difference in free throws attempts was Valpo’s largest of the season.
  • The fourth quarter alone accounted for more than the total difference in attempts, as the Beacons went to the foul line in the final 10 minutes just four times — two of those 14 seconds in and the other two with just 34 seconds remaining — as opposed to 22 free throw attempts for the Redbirds.
  • Valpo committed a season-low 11 turnovers on Saturday.

Next Up

Valpo (5-18, 4-10 MVC) returns to the ARC for a pair of games next week. The week opens with the Beacons’ lone matchup against Belmont this season, as the Bruins visit Thursday evening at 6 p.m.