A 2:45am fire alarm and hotel evacuation the night before a game might affect a lot of things, but it didn’t affect the defensive effort out of the gate for the Valpo women’s basketball team on Sunday. Valpo jumped out to a nine-point lead on Illinois State through one quarter, limiting the Redbirds to nine first-quarter points, and then used a career game from junior Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill./Cissna Park), key contributions at various points from a number of players and accurate free throw shooting throughout the game to keep the Redbirds at bay, earning a 78-70 road win.
How It Happened
- The first 10 minutes were sparked by Valpo’s team defense and the offense of Stoller. The defense limited Illinois State to just nine points, as the Redbirds shot 2-of-10 from the field and committed seven turnovers.
- Meanwhile, on the offensive end, Stoller outscored Illinois State by herself, going 5-of-6 from the field for 13 points as Valpo led the Redbirds 18-9 at the end of one.
- Eight of Stoller’s points came during a 13-0 Valpo run which extended its lead to 18-4 with 1:21 to play in the quarter before Illinois State scored the final five points of the period.
- Valpo scored the first five points of the second quarter on a pair of Stoller free throws and a 3-pointer from sophomore Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) to extend its advantage to 14 points.
- The lead remained in double figures for most of the second period, reaching an apex of 15 points. Illinois State moved within nine at 30-21 with 2:08 to play in the quarter, but Valpo came back with five straight – including Pitts’ second 3-pointer of the quarter.
- The Redbirds capped the quarter with four straight points, however, to make it a 35-25 Valpo lead at intermission.
- The story of the third quarter was Valpo finding a way to overcome foul trouble. The Brown and Gold were whistled for 10 fouls in the period which sent the Redbirds to the foul line 18 times, where they converted 15 of 18. By the end of the period, three Valpo starters were saddled with four fouls and another had three.
- Despite the number of free throws for Illinois State, Valpo was able to do enough offensively – led once again by Stoller – to only lose the period by two points, 24-22, and head into the fourth quarter leading 57-49. Stoller posted 10 points and five rebounds in the third quarter alone to lead the way.
- Illinois State got within six at 42-36 with 6:03 to play in the third period, but Valpo answered with seven consecutive points over a span of 52 seconds. The lead was as much as 14 in the quarter before the Redbirds scored six straight to close the period.
- Illinois State scored eight points over the first three-plus minutes of the fourth quarter – no match for the nine points posted single-handedly by senior Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind./Westview) over the same stretch as the lead pushed out to nine points. Over the course of four possessions, Hales was fouled on a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws, and connected on a pair of triples as well.
- The Redbirds closed to within four points at 68-64 with 3:22 to play on a TeTe Maggett jumper, as close as they had been since the middle stages of the first quarter. Illinois State had two chances on offense to make it a one-possession game, but missed both attempts, and a nice pass from Marlee Profitt (Medina, Ohio/Highland) to Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) for a basket with the shot clock about to expire gave Valpo a 70-64 lead with 2:05 to play.
- Profitt then came up with a big defensive play, blocking a shot and clearing the rebound on Illinois State’s next trip. After Valpo split a pair of free throws on the offensive end, a Redbird miss was again rebounded by Profitt to maintain the seven-point edge approaching the one-minute mark.
- Illinois State had to foul to put Valpo in the bonus, and fittingly with her play the last couple minutes, it was Profitt who stepped to the line in the bonus with 55 seconds remaining and calmly knocked down a pair to push the lead to 73-64. Illinois State would get no closer than six the rest of the way.
Inside the Game
- Sunday’s victory was Valpo’s seventh road win of the year, the most for a Valpo team since the 2006-07 team won eight true road games.
- Valpo also reached six wins in MVC play, its highest number of league wins since the 2009-10 squad picked up six Horizon League victories.
- Sunday’s win was Valpo’s first win in Normal since 1999, as it had lost its first two road conference games to Illinois State by an average of 14.5 points. It also flipped a 12-point loss to the Redbirds earlier this year at the ARC.
- The victory also keeps the Crusaders right in the thick of the middle of the MVC standings with three weekends of play remaining. With a 6-7 MVC record, Valpo is in a pack which contains only 1.5 games separation from fourth place (UNI, 7-6) to eighth place (Southern Illinois, 5-7).
- Stoller had a career game to lead the way in the victory, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. The 25 points is a career high for the junior, who finished the game 9-of-13 from the floor, 3-of-4 from the 3-point line, and 4-of-4 at the foul line. She also reached double figures in rebounds for the first time this year.
- Hales and sophomore Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis./Hortonville) added 14 points apiece in the win. Hales was 3-for-4 from long range and a perfect 5-for-5 at the foul line to improve to 59-for-63 at the charity stripe this year.
- Sophomore Carie Weinman (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South [Denver]) notched a game-high four steals to go with seven points and five rebounds.
- Making her return to action after missing the previous six games, Profitt played nine minutes off the bench, contributing four points and three rebounds in addition to the key assist and key block in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
- As a team, Valpo hit 10-of-26 from 3-point range on Sunday – the 12th time this year overall and the sixth time in MVC play it has connected on at least 10 triples. On the year, Valpo now has 211 3-pointers as a team, moving into sixth in a single season in program history.
- Valpo continued its stellar free throw shooting this year in Sunday’s win, going 26-of-28 at the foul line (92.9%). Stoller extended her consecutive free throws made streak to 29, Hales extended her personal streak to 23 and Frederick reached 23 as well before missing one.
- The Crusaders limited Illinois State to just 35.2% shooting for the game, including just a 4-for-18 mark from the 3-point line.
Thoughts From Coach Evans
“I think it shows a lot of maturity as a team to be flexible enough to handle the change to their typical game-day routine and the adversity of getting into some late foul trouble. We have talked a lot about controlling the things that we can control the last couple of weeks, and I think they did a great job staying focused and doing that today. I am really proud of the way they kept any of that stuff from creeping into their heads, stayed focused on the game plan and played every possession the best that we could.”
“I think that we did a much better job today matching up in transition and finding Crompton and Maggett in transition than we did in the first meeting. We fronted the post better and rotated much better in our help side. Offensively, we moved and shared the ball much better. We set better screens, worked together to create space, and made the offense work for us.”
“Addy was huge today! She came out of the gate really aggressive on offense, defense, and rebounding, and I think it really set a tone for our team. She is an extremely talented player and our team did a great job creating space and getting her the ball today.”
“Marlee is one of the toughest players I have ever coached. She brings a bit of an edge to our team that it needs. You know she is going to always play great post defense, rebound, and most importantly, she is a great communicator. She really helps anchor our defense when she is in the game. Her return will give us more depth and experience coming off the bench.”
Valpo (14-10, 6-7 MVC) closes out the current three-game road stretch at Loyola next Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.