The Valpo women’s basketball team closed out the regular season with a strong performance in a game which had a lot on the line, using an early fourth-quarter run to pull away from Southern Illinois for a 69-58 road victory Saturday afternoon. The victory clinched the sixth seed for the Brown and Gold and ensured that Valpo would open Hoops in the Heartland in the quarterfinals on Friday against third-seeded Bradley.
How It Happened
- It was a slow start offensively Saturday, as it took Valpo over four minutes to crack the scoreboard and the Salukis jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Valpo quickly erased the deficit, however, thanks to two triples from senior Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind./Westview), the second of which tied the game at 8-8 with 4:41 left in the quarter.
- SIU connected on a 3-pointer on its next possession, but the Crusaders limited the Salukis to just two points in the final four minutes of the opening period. A driving layup in the final 30 seconds of the quarter from sophomore Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) capped a 7-2 spurt to end the period, putting Valpo on top 15-13 at the end of one.
- The second quarter continued the back and forth nature of the game, as it was played entirely within a six-point span – SIU’s largest lead in the quarter was four points, while Valpo’s advantage peaked at two points.
- SIU’s four-point lead came on a fast-break layup with 3:23 to play in the half, giving the Salukis a 32-28 lead. Junior Grace White (Redby, Minn./Red Lake [Denver]) came up with a huge 3-pointer on Valpo’s next possession to get the deficit back down to just one point.
- It looked like Valpo would carry a one-point lead into the halftime break, but SIU’s Lauren Hartman got a putback to fall at the buzzer to put the Salukis up 34-33 at intermission.
- The third quarter proved to be a defensive-minded period, as Valpo limited SIU to just 10 points while scoring 13 of its own to pull ahead by two at the end of the quarter.
- Sophomore Carie Weinman (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South [Denver]) knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, which was played entirely within a five-point spread. Weinman’s second 3-pointer came in the waning seconds of the period and put Valpo on top 46-44 entering the fourth quarter.
- Valpo got the ball on the possession arrow to start the fourth and took full advantage, as senior Marlee Profitt (Medina, Ohio/Highland) drilled a 28-foot 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to extend the lead to five points.
- SIU scored on its first trip of the fourth quarter, but White got a putback on the offensive end and then, following a stop, Hales knocked down another triple to force an SIU timeout as Valpo made it an 11-2 run and extended its lead to 54-46 with 8:06 to play.
- Out of the timeout, SIU’s Abby Brockmeyer scored inside, but that proved to be the last field goal for the Salukis for over five and a half minutes, as Valpo’s defense maintained its lead. The Crusaders forced a trio of SIU turnovers and the Salukis went 0-for-3 from the floor during that stretch.
- The Salukis got another basket from Brockmeyer with 2:15 to play to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 60-53.
- Valpo got the job done from the foul line to close out the game, as after going just 12-for-19 at the line over the first 38 minutes, the Brown and Gold were 9-for-10 at the stripe to close out the victory.
Inside the Game
- With the win, Valpo closed out the regular season with its best MVC record (9-9) in its first three years as a conference member and earned its highest finish in the conference standings.
- Not only did the win secure the sixth seed at Hoops in the Heartland for Valpo and a spot in Friday’s quarterfinals, it sent the Salukis into the seventh seed and a Thursday first-round game.
- This year’s team is the first to finish at or above .500 in league play since the 2008-09 team went 10-8 in the Horizon League.
- Saturday’s win was the 17th of the season for the program, the highest total in a season since the 2006-07 squad went 20-11.
- Valpo posted a 6-3 record in the second half of the MVC slate after going 3-6 in the first half of the schedule. Valpo turned three of its losses in the first half into wins in the second half, two of which came on the road (Illinois State, Southern Illinois).
- The Crusaders finished the MVC road schedule with a 5-4 record, its first finish over .500 in road conference action since the 2006-07 team went 5-2 in road Mid-Con games.
- Overall, Saturday’s victory was the program’s ninth road win of the year, the most true road wins in a season since the 2001-02 team won a pair of postseason WNIT games en route to nine road victories.
- Saturday’s result was a 27-point swing from the first meeting this year, when SIU won 67-51 at the ARC in the first MVC game of the season for both teams.
- While Valpo shot just 38.5% for the game, the Brown and Gold knocked down half of their 3-point attempts (8-for-16).
- Valpo also committed just 14 turnovers while forcing 17 SIU miscues in a battle of the MVC’s top two teams in the turnover margin department, outscoring SIU off of turnovers, 18-11. 12 of the 17 Saluki turnovers were Valpo steals, led by four thefts from White.
- White also paced Valpo offensively, coming off the bench to deliver 16 points in just 20 minutes of action (5-8 FG; 5-6 FT). She was one of four players in double figures, joined by Hales (15 points, 4-5 3PT), junior Addison Stoller (12 points, six rebounds) and Weinman (11 points, 2-3 3PT).
- Sophomore Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis./Hortonville) added eight points, a team-high four assists and a career-best nine rebounds.
- Saturday’s game featured a total of 13 lead changes and seven ties.
Thoughts From Coach Evans
“Our players showed a tremendous amount of toughness and composure this afternoon. It was an extremely physical contest, and I thought that from the first media timeout on, we matched SIU’s aggressiveness for the remainder of the game. They showed a lot of mental toughness to fight through any physical fatigue that they might have had and continue to play the game one possession at a time. My staff and I challenged our players to play this game one stop and one score at a time and to stay together through any adversity that they might face. I think they really stepped up and did that throughout the game.”
“We have made great strides since the beginning of January. This team has continued to make just getting better everyday their sole focus. We try not to talk too much about results and just try and learn and grow every game. They have stayed connected on and off the court and continue to fight with and for each other every day. They show up and do the work, and it is nice to see that they have been rewarded ith getting some positive results in February and March.”
“We talked before the season about building a championship program and culture here at Valpo and this team being the foundation for what we are building for the future. Not playing in the first round was something that they wanted to set as a goal this year, so I am excited for this group and proud of them for achieving that goal.”
Valpo (17-12, 9-9 MVC) will be the sixth seed for Hoops in the Heartland and will open up tournament action Friday evening against third-seeded Bradley at approximately 8:30 p.m.