Close games have been the norm for the Valparaiso University women’s basketball team this season. Sunday was yet another day where the game was still hanging in the balance when the public address announcer bellowed the words, “one minute – one minute remaining.” North Dakota State edged the hosts for a 51-48 win – the seventh time in 10 games Valpo has played a game decided by six points or fewer.
How It Happened
- The early stages favored the home team as a 3-pointer by Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) four minutes into the contest put Valpo up 7-2. A 6-0 run followed to allow North Dakota State to gain the lead before the game went back-and-forth for the remainder of the first quarter.
- It was another triple by Hamlet that accounted for the final points of the opening quarter, snapping a nine-all deadlock and putting Valpo up 12-9 through 10 minutes.
- Valpo missed five of its seven 3-point tries in the opening quarter, but the Bison were 0-for-5 from behind the arc. Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) had a strong start to the game with four rebounds and four points in the early going.
- After North Dakota State achieved the first basket of the second quarter, Valpo went on an 8-0 run to open the lead to nine. The run started with a 3 by freshman Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill. / Montini) and finished with an old-fashioned 3-point play by Hamlet.
- A layup by Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) widened the Valpo cushion to 11 with 4:07 left in the second – Valpo’s largest lead of the game. However, by the time the buzzer sounded to end the second quarter, the Bison whittled the lead all the way down to two at 26-24.
- Valpo went 1-of-7 from 3 in the second quarter, while going 6-of-17 from the floor in that period. By the break, Stoller was closing in on a double-double with eight points and eight rebounds.
- The lead fluctuated between five and one early in the third before North Dakota State broke through on a 3 by Cirkeline Rimdal with 3:48 left in the quarter, going ahead 35-33. The response was a quick one as Pitts nailed a triple to put Valpo back on top, but by the end of the quarter it was back to even, 38-38.
- Valpo survived the third quarter despite committing nine turnovers in that period alone while the Bison committed just two. The shooting was sharp for Valpo, which went 40 percent from the field, 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 2-of-2 at the stripe in the third.
- Valpo never went away, but never led in the fourth. The largest Bison lead was seven at 49-42 after a layup by Michelle Gaislerova with 3:23 left. Valpo got it back down to two at the 1:32 mark. The hosts had a chance late when Pitts split a pair of free throws with nine seconds left and Hamlet pulled down an offensive carom with Valpo (3-7) trailing 51-48, but the last two Valpo shots were off the mark and the Bison (3-7) held on.
Inside the Game
- It was only a matter of time before Stoller recorded her first career double-double. It came on Sunday, as the redshirt sophomore pulled down 10 boards to go along with her 11 points. She had been close to that feat on multiple prior occasions.
- Hamlet led all scorers with 15 points and came close to a double-double herself, squeezing a season-high eight rebounds.
- Speaking of a double-double watch, Pitts was also in that category as she matched a career best with 10 points while establishing a personal watermark with eight boards. She equaled her career high in scoring from Nov. 16 at Morehead State and shattered a personal best in rebounding of six that was set on Nov. 29 at Chicago State.
- Sophomore Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake) pulled down a season-high eight rebounds. She finished one shy of her career high, which came on Feb. 25, 2018 at Evansville.
- As a team, Valpo had 41 rebounds, matching a season high from Nov. 26 vs. Toledo. Valpo outdid the Bison 41-31 on the boards, winning the rebounding battle for the first time this season. The +10 rebounding margin was Valpo’s best since Feb. 11, 2018 at Loyola.
- Valpo held North Dakota State to 11.1 percent (2-of-18) from 3-point range. This was the fourth time already this season Valpo has held an opponent to two made 3s or fewer. Making Sunday’s feat even more impressive is the fact that the Bison had made three 3s or more in every game this season and narrowly extended their long streak of games with two or more made 3s to 92.
- The 11.1 percent from 3 for North Dakota State was a season best for the Valpo defense and marked the lowest 3-point field goal percentage by an opponent since Feb. 2 of last season when Bradley shot 10.5 percent from distance.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mary Evans
“They made a couple more plays than we did. They hit some shots late and we did not hit shots late. The game came down to us not being able to take care of the basketball. We had 18 turnovers, and when you can’t take a shot every possession, you put yourself in a position to lose a game like this. We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball and valuing every single possession.”
“Today we learned that we’ve gotten better in some areas. There were some things we didn’t do well today, but our defense is getting better and there are fewer times that we’re giving up middle penetration. We’re getting closer to being in the right spot to take charges. We’re denying reversal a little bit better, and they’re getting catches further off the 3-point line. Offensively, we had some really good possessions where we played unselfishly – we moved it, kicked the ball out and got second drives. We just didn’t quite do that enough, and there were some possessions where we did that and got really good shots, but just didn’t make them. Playing at this tempo and pace is not easy, so we have to continue to do it every single day so that it becomes easier in crunch time.”
“Addison came out really aggressive. We ran the first play of the game for her and she drove it strong and ended up scoring right off the bat. That’s always a good sign. She’s being really aggressive attacking the basket. She’s doing a great job playing through a lot of contact at the rim and she’s making a lot of those shots. She really kick-started our rebounding. For us to outrebound them by 10 boards is big for us. That’s going to be a big piece of us being able to move forward and win games.”
“We have a tendency to foul, and that’s something we’re focusing on. We’re calling fouls in practice and really hammering them about hand checks. Only having seven players combined with our problem of fouling really hurts down the stretch. We had Addy foul out and two other players with four fouls. It handcuffs how aggressive you can be both offensively and defensively.”
“I think it’s great that we have a quick turnaround with games on Wednesday and Friday. We can get in tomorrow and talk about what we did well today and what we need to correct. Then, we turn around and play a team in Purdue Fort Wayne that is going to play similar to what we just saw. I’d rather play games, and I think the players would rather play games. It’s the best time to learn and get better. Having a lot of games this week is a great learning opportunity.”
It’s a busy week for Valpo as the team will play the second of three games in a six-day span on Wednesday at Purdue Fort Wayne at 6 p.m. CT / 7 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on Mastodon All-Access ($) and on ValpoAthletics.com via UStream. Links to live coverage will be available.