It didn’t require a flashy comeback or feature a ton of 3-pointers. Instead, Friday night’s Valpo women’s basketball victory over UNI was just a hard-fought battle in MVC play with 15 lead changes and 10 ties, one in which the Brown and Gold emerged victorious by a 72-69 final. The win, which was led by a career-high 22 points from sophomore Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis./Hortonville), assured Valpo of its first winning season since the 2008-09 campaign and puts the program in a tie for fourth place in the MVC standings entering the weekend.
How It Happened
- After the lead traded hands a few times early on, UNI took control of the first quarter and led by as many as six at 17-11 with 2:45 to play in the period.
- Layups on consecutive possessions by sophomore Carie Weinman (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South [Denver]) and Frederick late in the quarter cut the deficit to one point before UNI’s Bre Gunnels hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the period to give the Panthers a 22-18 lead at the end of the first.
- The entire second quarter was played within a six-point spread, as UNI never led by more than four and Valpo never gained more than a two-point edge.
- Frederick grabbed an offensive rebound and stepped into a 3-pointer with 2:39 to play in the half to put Valpo on top briefly, 35-34, but UNI scored the final five points of the half to take a 39-35 lead into intermission.
- Much like the first half, the third quarter was back and forth, featuring three ties and seven lead changes. The only time after the opening seconds that either team enjoyed more than a one-possession edge came when UNI pulled ahead by five, 49-44, with 4:47 to play in the quarter.
- Valpo came back and scored the next six points, capped by a 3-pointer by junior Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South), to briefly take a one-point lead with 3:25 to play in the quarter.
- Later in the quarter, another triple – this one from senior Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind./Westview) – again put Valpo on top by a point. Eventually, the third period came to a close with the two squads fittingly tied at 54-54.
- One big run looked like it could give either team control, and it was Valpo which put together the crucial stretch to open the fourth quarter.
- Frederick, Weinman and sophomore Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) combined for all the Valpo points in a 10-2 run over the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, with Pitts canning a corner 3-pointer to force a UNI timeout with the Brown and Gold enjoying a 64-56 lead.
- The Panthers wouldn’t go down quietly, scoring the next six points in a row to cut the lead to two points. In fact, UNI would three times in a two-minute stretch make it a one-possession game, but all three times, Valpo came up with points.
- First, it was Morrison finishing under the rim on a feed from Weinman, and then Frederick coming up with a steal and going coast-to-coast for a layup.
- Finally, with the lead sitting at 69-66, the clock hitting two minutes to play and the shot clock about to expire, Weinman stepped up and knocked down a deep 3-pointer to extend the lead to six.
- UNI got a basket from Karli Rucker with 1:43 to go to make it a four-point game, and then Gunnels split a pair of free throws with 39 seconds remaining to cut it to 72-69. A subsequent Valpo shot clock violation and UNI timeout gave the Panthers possession in the frontcourt with the potential to tie the game and force overtime, but Rucker’s last-second 3-point attempt was deflected by Frederick and came up well short.
Inside the Game
- With 16 wins this year, Valpo has now secured a winning record for the first time since 2008-09. The 16 wins also matches the most in a single season since the 2006-07 squad won 20.
- Friday’s win was Valpo’s eighth in MVC play this season, matching its total from its first two seasons as a conference member combined.
- The win was Valpo’s first over UNI since joining the Valley. It was Valpo’s second top-100 RPI win in its last three games, after going nearly seven years (Detroit; March 9, 2013) since its last win over a top-100 opponent.
- The victory improves Valpo’s home record this season to 8-4, the program’s best record at the ARC since the 2012-13 team went 9-5 at home.
- Frederick led the way in the victory as she poured in a career-best 22 points, going 8-of-16 from the field and 5-of-6 from the foul line. She also grabbed five rebounds and tied for team-high honors with four assists while not committing a turnover.
- Weinman did not miss a shot from the field, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting. She also continued her campaign for MVC Defensive Player of the Year with a game-high five steals, pushing her average in conference play to an MVC-best 3.0 steals/game.
- Four of Valpo’s five starters scored in double figures, as both Hales and Morrison scored 10 points as well. Morrison scored all 10 of her points after halftime and also pulled down a team-best seven rebounds.
- With her 10 points, Hales moved into 13th in program history on the career scoring chart with 1,088 points, just eight out of 12th. She also played her 120th career game on Friday, tied for fifth-most in program history.
- Pitts came off the bench to contribute seven points and match Frederick with four assists.
- Valpo rallied from a halftime deficit to win for the sixth time in its 16 wins this year, and the 3-point shooting differential between the two halves was notable. UNI shot 4-of-10 from deep in the first half, but was 0-of-7 from deep in the second half. Meanwhile, the Crusaders went into halftime shooting just 2-of-10 from 3-point range, but connected on 4-of-8 3-point attempts in the second half.
- Like it has done all season long, Valpo turned UNI over and took advantage. The Crusaders forced 20 Panther turnovers – 12 of which were steals – and converted those miscues into 21 points on the offensive end.
- Valpo totaled 40 points in the paint in the winning effort, its highest total since dropping 44 paint points in the road win at Indiana State in early January.
Thoughts From Coach Evans
“We talked before the game about how we needed to battle for 40 minutes tonight. We talked about how we were going to go on runs and they were going to go on runs - we just needed to stay together and lean into each other when UNI's runs were happening and stay solid. They did that, they stayed together. UNI shot the ball really well in the first half - we felt like that wouldn't last the whole game, and our players came up big in the fourth quarter and came up with some big stops.”
“We went into a zone defensively, and I think that gave us a bit of confidence. We got some stops. Then UNI was going back into one of their zones, one they didn't run at us when we played at their place earlier this year. We used halftime to talk about how we wanted to attack that and got everybody reorganized. I thought Shay, Ilysse, Carie, Grace White really did a great job on the top at attacking, getting in deep, and giving us the ability to play four against three on the bottom side of the zone. They made good decisions and players made big shots.”
Valpo (16-10, 8-7 MVC) closes out the regular season home slate on Sunday afternoon when it hosts Drake at 1 p.m. on ESPN+. Sunday will be Senior Day for the program, as it honors the five members of its senior class.