February 25, 20241st2nd3rd4thFinal
Stats at a GlanceUICVALPO
FG Percentage.558 (29-52) .379 (22-58)
3P FG Percentage.333 (4-12) .250 (5-20)
FT Percentage.667 (20-30) .500 (10-20)
Offensive Rebounds109
Defensive Rebounds3417
Total Rebounds4426
Bench Points4926
PointsRimmer - 18
Earnest - 16
ReboundsWilliams - 10
Jackson - 4
AssistsYoung - 5
Jackson - 3
StealsYoung - 2
Frau-Garcia - 2
Brown - 3
BlocksMiddleton - 1
Gold - 1
Beacons Host Play4Kay Game Sunday Against UIC
Friday, February 23, 2024
Beacons Host Play4Kay Game Sunday Against UIC
Jill Harris and the Beacons take on UIC Sunday.

Valparaiso (5-19, 4-11 MVC)
Game #25 - February 25, 2024 - 1 p.m.
UIC (15-11, 8-7 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.

Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team hosts its annual Play4Kay game on Sunday when it welcomes UIC to the ARC. The last three regular season meetings between the two programs have all gone right down to the wire.

Previously: Valpo returned to the ARC Thursday evening, falling to reigning MVC regular season co-champions Belmont by an 83-56 final. Senior Leah Earnest surpassed the 600-rebound mark for her career, becoming just the 12th player in program history to reach that milestone.

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 60-110. 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: The most common opponent in program history, UIC holds a 29-25 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo. Previously conference mates in the North Star Conference, the Mid-Continent Conference and the Horizon League, last season was the first year the two programs shared conference affiliation in the Missouri Valley Conference. The last three regular season meetings between the two programs have gone right down to the wire - last season, the Flames won in Chicago, 51-50, on a Josie Filer 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds to play and then won at the ARC, 55-53. This season’s first meeting in Chicago saw the Beacons flip the script, as Leah Earnest hit a buzzer-beating layup to give Valpo the 71-70 win. The Beacons went 14-for-29 from the 3-point line in the victory.

...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 Belmont
- Valpo and Belmont were tied 8-8 at the first quarter media timeout before the Bruins scored the final five points of the period to lead 13-8 at the end of the first.
- The teams traded 12-5 stretches to start the second quarter. Belmont then scored nine points in a row to push its lead to double digits and led 41-29 at intermission.
- Belmont opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run over the first five-plus minutes to make it a 20-point game. The Bruins led 62-41 with 10 minutes to play.
- Leah Earnest scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to cut the Bruins’ lead to 19, but they scored the next 11 in a row to put the game away.
- Earnest posted game highs of 18 points and eight rebounds and paced the Beacons as well with five assists, just one off her career high.
- Earnest was joined in double figures by both Nevaeh Jackson and Saniya Jackson, both of whom ended the night with 10 points. Nevaeh Jackson also racked up a season-best five steals.
- As a team, Valpo tallied 12 steals — the 12th time this season it has hit double digits in that department.
- The Beacons shot just 35.1% from the field for the game and were just 5-of-27 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Belmont hit at a 57.7% clip and went 10-of-23 from deep.
- While Valpo committed one fewer turnover than Belmont (18-19), the Bruins held a 24-15 edge in points off turnovers. Belmont also enjoyed a 30-6 advantage in bench scoring.

...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.

...looking ahead
- The Beacons’ final road trip of the regular season takes them to UNI and Drake next weekend.
- Valpo closes out the regular season at the ARC March 7 and 9 against Southern Illinois and Missouri State, respectively.

...at the ARC
- Valpo will play 12 regular season home games during the 2023-24 campaign. Sunday is the Beacons’ 10th home game of the season.
- The Beacons are 2-7 at home so far this year and posted a 3-12 record at home last season.

- UIC comes into the ARC Sunday with a 15-11 overall record on the season and an 8-7 mark in MVC play.
- The Flames had won three of their last four before falling on Thursday night to Murray State, 83-63.
- Makiyah Williams leads UIC, averaging 12.6 points/game, while Keimari Rimmer posts 11.1 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game.

Taking Advantage of Charity
- Comparing the first 12 games of the season to the next 12 games, one area of tremendous improvement for the Beacons has been at the free throw line.
- Valpo hit at just a 61.8% (134-217) clip from the foul line over the season’s first 12 games, but since, the Beacons are shooting at a 79.8% (150-188) clip.
- Leading the charge has been Leah Earnest, who was just 26-of-46 at the line over the first 12 games, but has been 58-of-70 since.
- Saniya Jackson has seen vast improvement, as after hitting just 11-of-27 over the first 12 games, she has been 20-of-28 since. Nevaeh Jackson has been nearly perfect at the foul line over the last 12 as well, connecting on 17-of-19.

Reaching Milestones
- Senior Leah Earnest hit one milestone on Thursday evening and looks poised to crack another one on Sunday afternoon.
- With her third rebound Thursday against Belmont, Earnest hit 600 rebounds for her career, becoming just the 12th player in program history to hit that mark.
- Earnest finished the night with 605 career rebounds, 37 shy of 11th place in program history.
- Meanwhile, Earnest’s 18-point night against the Bruins pushed her career scoring total to 992 points, tied for 18th-most in program history.
- With eight more points, Earnest will become the 18th member of Valpo’s 1,000-point club.
- Earnest would become just the 10th Valpo player all-time with both 1,000 career points and 600 career rebounds - of the seven players currently eligible, five of them are members of the Valpo Athletics Hall of Fame.

Double-Digit Quarters
- Earnest scored 21 of her career-best 32 points against Illinois State 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 last 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 14.9 times/game over the last 10 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.

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 10 games, Earnest is averaging 20.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
- She has paced the Beacons in each of the last 12 games in rebounding.
- Earnest enters Sunday’s game ranked fifth in the conference in scoring (16.1) and eighth in rebounding (7.4), while 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 22 of 24 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 at Illinois State last Saturday to go with 13 rebounds.
- 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 22 D-I players to reach 32 points and 13 rebounds in the same game this year and is one of just two MVC players to do so.
- Last 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.

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 9.0 points/game, having scored in double figures 13 times this year - including each of the last five outings.
- She also leads the team with 40 steals and ranks third in rebounding.
- Meanwhile, Nevaeh Jackson is fourth on the team in scoring with 7.1 points/game, reaching double digits on seven 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 11 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 9.7 steals/game and has been in double figures in steals in 12 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.