February 22, 20241st2nd3rd4thFinal
Stats at a GlanceBELVALPO
FG Percentage.577 (30-52) .351 (20-57)
3P FG Percentage.435 (10-23) .185 (5-27)
FT Percentage.684 (13-19) .846 (11-13)
Offensive Rebounds89
Defensive Rebounds2916
Total Rebounds3725
Bench Points306
PointsMcGuff - 16
Earnest - 18
ReboundsMiller - 8
Earnest - 8
AssistsJones - 6
Harrison - 6
Earnest - 5
StealsJones - 6
Jackson - 5
BlocksCheesman - 2
Earnest - 1
Women's Basketball Returns Home, Hosts Belmont Thursday
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Women's Basketball Returns Home, Hosts Belmont Thursday
Nevaeh Jackson is averaging in double figures over Valpo's last 10 games.

Valparaiso (5-18, 4-10 MVC)
Game #24 - February 22, 2024 - 6 p.m.
Belmont (18-7, 11-3 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.

Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team returns home to the ARC for a pair of games this week, starting with a Thursday evening contest against Belmont - the Beacons’ lone matchup with the Bruins in the regular season.

Previously: Already enjoying a tremendous season, Valpo senior Leah Earnest 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.

Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN+
Audio: 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 60-109. 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: It is a brief series, as Belmont and Valpo had not matched up on the hardwood prior to the Bruins joining the MVC last season. Belmont earned the win in both meetings last year, winning 74-60 in Nashville and 70-67 at the ARC - the latter win coming despite the Beacons hitting 15 3-pointers. Olivia Brown averaged a team-best 18.5 points/game over the two games, combining to hit 11-of-16 from 3-point range.

...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.

...at Illinois State
- Valpo started the game on a 13-0 run and led 22-16 at the end of the first quarter.
- A buzzer-beating midrange jumper by Leah Earnest capped her 21-point half and gave the Beacons a 37-34 lead at intermission.
- Valpo led for much of the third quarter, but a five-point spurt by the Redbirds gave ISU a 49-48 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
- The Beacons regained the lead seconds into the fourth quarter and held a five-point advantage 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.
- Earnest, who entered the game with a career high of 26 points, flew past that mark on Saturday as she finished with 32 points. She also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.
- Earnest cracked Valpo’s top-20 in career scoring, as she has scored 974 points, and moved up to 12th on the program’s career rebounding chart with 597 boards.
- Saniya Jackson joined Earnest in double figures with 10 points, her fourth consecutive double-digit scoring effort and her 12th of the season.
- 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.

...at Bradley
- The Beacons opened the game by hitting 9-of-11 from the floor over the opening 10 minutes, pulling out to a 24-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
- Valpo opened the second quarter just like it started off the first, as Nevaeh Jackson drilled another triple. A couple possessions later, the Beacons got back-to-back layups from Leah Earnest and Olivia Brown to extend the lead to 31-14 and force another Bradley timeout with 7:48 remaining in the half.
- The Braves got no closer than 12 points the remainder of the half. A basket from redshirt senior Emma Tecca in the final minute of the period gave Valpo a 39-22 edge at intermission.
- Bradley got no closer than 13 points in the second half and Valpo led by as many as 20 points on its way to the win.
- Thursday’s win closed out Valpo’s third consecutive season sweep of the Braves, as the Beacons have won the last six matchups in the series.
- Valpo shot a season-best 50% (26-for-52) from the field in the victory while limiting Bradley to 38.3% (18-for-47) shooting.
- The Beacons hit at better than a 40% clip from the 3-point line for the fourth time this year, finishing the night 8-for-21 from deep.
- Valpo held a +10 advantage on the glass, grabbing 33 caroms to the Braves’ 23.
- For the second time in as many matchups with Bradley this season, Earnest led all players across the board, as she finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists
- Jackson posted 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and adding four rebounds and three assists without a turnover. The freshman also came away with a season-high four steals.
- Freshman Saniya Jackson scored in double figures for the third straight game, tallying 10 points, while Interrante hit 3-of-4 from the floor for eight points.

...looking ahead
- Valpo closes out the week of home action by hosting UIC Sunday, Feb. 25 for the program’s annual Play4Kay game.
- The Beacons’ final road trip of the regular season takes them to UNI and Drake next weekend.

...at the ARC
- Valpo will play 12 regular season home games during the 2023-24 campaign. Thursday is the Beacons’ ninth home game of the season.
- The Beacons are 2-6 at home so far this year and posted a 3-12 record at home last season.

- Belmont enters Thursday’s game at 18-7 overall and tied for second in MVC play with an 11-3 record.
- The Bruins had won six of their last seven before dropping a 77-71 decision to Drake last time out.
- Four Belmont players score in double figures, led by 13.4 points/game from Tessa Miller, who also paces the Bruins with 6.6 rebounds/game.

What a Line
- Leah Earnest enjoyed a career game last Saturday at Illinois State, finishing with a career-best 32 points and 13 rebounds. 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.
- 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.
- Saturday’s performance was just the latest of Earnest’s impressive stat lines this year. She posted 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in Valpo’s home win over Bradley - the first player in Valpo history to reach those marks in the same game, and one of just four D-I players this year (a group which includes Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese) to hit those marks.
- Earnest tallied 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the Beacons’ win at UIC. Only three times this year has an MVC player hit those marks in the same game, and Earnest’s efforts against Bradley and at UIC account of two of those instances.

Double-Digit Quarters
- Earnest scored 21 of her points against the Redbirds in the first half, 14 of which came in the second quarter for the highest-scoring quarter of her career.
- It was the fifth time in Earnest’s career she has scored 10 or more points in a single quarter, four of which have happened this season - she scored 13 points in the fourth quarter of the home game against Illinois State, 12 points in the first quarter of the win over Chicago State and 11 points in the fourth quarter at UAB.
- Earnest is responsible for half of Valpo’s individual double-digit scoring periods this year. Nevaeh Jackson scored a Valpo season-best 17 points in the second quarter of the home matchup with Illinois State.
- Olivia Brown poured in 14 points in the third quarter of the Chicago State win, while Ella Van Weelden tallied 12 points on four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter at Southern Illinois and the second quarter of the home win over Bradley.

Taking Care of the Basketball
- Valpo continued its recent trend of taking care of the basketball Saturday at Illinois State, committing a season-best 11 turnovers.
- It was the program’s fewest turnovers in a game since committing eight miscues in the January 2023 home win over Bradley.
- After committing 20.4 turnovers/game over the season’s first 14 games, the Beacons have turned it over just 14.6 times/game over the last nine games.

Downing the Braves
- There was little drama in either of Valpo’s wins in its season sweep of Bradley this year, as the Beacons led by double figures for the entirety of the second half of both their 68-50 win at Bradley and their 79-55 home win over the Braves.
- The 18-point road win was Valpo’s largest road win since an 88-66 win at Evansville Jan. 12, 2020.
- Valpo’s 24-point margin of victory in the home win 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.

Gold-en Defense
- Freshman Layla Gold enjoyed a pair of stellar performances on the defensive side of the court in the home weekend against Valpo’s in-state foes.
- Gold opened the weekend with a four-block effort against Indiana State.
- 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.
- She topped that against Evansville, racking up six blocks - tied for fourth-most in a game in program history - and four steals.
- Gold is one of just eight D-I players this season to post at least six blocks and four steals in a single game, and is the only freshman among that group. The last D-I freshman to hit both those marks in a single game was DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow in November 2021.
- Gold is the first Valpo and the first MVC player to reach both those marks in one contest since Caitlin Morrison did so against Chicago State Dec. 28, 2019.

A Dramatic Win
- The Beacons’ 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.

Another Leap Forward
- Senior Leah Earnest’s recent efforts have been part of a stellar step forward this season.
- Over Valpo’s last nine games, Earnest is averaging 20.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
- She has paced the Beacons in each of the last 11 games in rebounding.
- Earnest enters Thursday’s game ranked fifth in the conference in scoring (16.0) and eighth in rebounding (7.4), while also averaging a team-best 2.8 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 21 of 23 games to date.
- Earnest entered this season with a career high of 20 in the scoring column, but has hit that mark or better seven times this year, including a career-best 32 points last time out at Illinois State.
- Earnest cracked Valpo’s top-20 in career scoring with her effort against the Redbirds and is just 26 points shy of the 1,000-point milestone for her career.
- 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 Thursday’s game ranked 12th in program history with 597 career rebounds.

Jackson Jackson
- The twins from Fort Wayne have been a big part of the Beacon squad this season.
- Saniya Jackson ranks third on the team with 8.9 points/game, having scored in double figures 12 times this year.
- She also leads the team with 38 steals and ranks third in rebounding.
- Meanwhile, Nevaeh Jackson is fourth on the team in scoring with 7.0 points/game, reaching double digits on six occasions.
- She also ranks second on the team in rebounds, assists and blocked shots.
- Both Saniya (10.1/game) and Nevaeh (10.2/game) are averaging in double figures over Valpo’s last 10 games.

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 9.6 steals/game and has been in double figures in steals in 11 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.
- Two Beacons have had an eight-steal game this season - freshman Saniya Jackson did so Nov. 25 at UAB and fellow rookie Raeven 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.