Valparaiso (4-11, 2-2 MVC)
Game #16 - January 13, 2022 - 6 p.m.
at Illinois State (7-7, 3-0 MVC)
Redbird Arena (10,000) - Normal, Ill.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: Coming off of the program’s first-ever sweep of the UNI/Drake weekend series, the Valpo women’s basketball team looks to keep the momentum rolling as it returns to the road to take on first-place Illinois State on Thursday evening. The game kicks off a stretch in which Valpo will play five of its next seven contests away from home.
Previously: Sunday afternoon began with Caitlin Morrison being honored for setting Valpo women’s basketball program records for career games played and games started. It ended a reminder of the steps forward the program has taken over her six years in the Brown and Gold, as Morrison knocked down a career-high seven 3-pointers to lead the way as Valpo earned its first-ever win over visiting Drake, 71-61. Led by Morrison’s prowess from deep, the Beacons hit 14 3-pointers in the victory.
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Head Coach Mary Evans: Mary Evans is in her fourth year at the helm of the program in 2021-22 and owns a record of 41-60. Evans has made an immediate impact on the program in her first three years, raising the team’s level of play to be competitive in a strong Missouri Valley Conference. Evans’ preferred style of play has been a big part of the program’s turnaround, as Valpo has led the MVC in 3-pointers made per game and in steals per game in each of the last two seasons.
Series Notes: Illinois State leads the all-time series 8-4 and owns a 5-3 advantage since Valpo joined the MVC, but Valpo has won two of the last three meetings - all of which have come at Redbird Arena. Last season, the two teams split the two-game series in Normal. Valpo rallied from a double-figure deficit in the second half to force overtime in the opener before falling, 81-75, but rebounded the next day with a decisive 75-58 win behind 21 points from Caitlin Morrison.
- Valpo has been picked to finish in sixth place in the MVC preseason poll, totaling 208 points - just one point shy of fifth place.
- Valpo is in its fifth season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference in 2021-22.
- The Valley was ranked seventh nationally in conference NET in 2020-21 and was eighth nationally in conference RPI in 2019-20.
...looking back at last year
- Valpo posted a 12-13 overall record during the 2020-21 season and went 7-9 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
- Valpo finished the regular season in seventh place in the MVC standings.
- Included among Valpo’s 12 victories were wins at Illinois and at Purdue, the program’s first Power Five wins since 2012-13.
- Valpo closed the season with a NET of 122 - the program’s best final NET/RPI ranking since the 2003-04 campaign.
- Shay Frederick was a First Team All-MVC honoree as she led the Valley in assists and ranked sixth in scoring.
- Carie Weinman earned Honorable Mention All-MVC notice and repeated on the All-Defensive Team as she led the Valley in steals for a second straight season.
- Valpo never trailed, as two early 3-pointers from Caitlin Morrison got the Beacons out to an 8-0 lead.
- Drake rallied to tie the game at 12-all, but Valpo scored the final eight points of the first quarter to lead 20-12 at the end of one.
- Matching mini-spurts opened the second quarter, as Drake scored the first five points of the period before Valpo came back with six in a row to extend its lead to nine points.
- The Beacons’ lead reached double digits for the first time late in the first half on a 3-pointer by White, and got up to as many as 12 points before settling in at a 38-29 advantage at intermission.
- Valpo’s lead never fell below nine points in the second half, and reached as many as 18 points as the Beacons earned their first win in program history over the Bulldogs.
- Morrison ended the game 7-for-9 from beyond the 3-point line to match her career high with 21 points.
- Frederick broke her career high, dishing out 10 assists - the first Valpo player to register double-figure assists in a game since 2017.
- Frederick’s distribution was more than enough for the Beacons’ offense on Sunday, as four Valpo players finished in double digits in the scoring column for the first time since Dec. 20, 2020 at Wisconsin — led by the effort of Morrison.
- UNI converted a four-point play on its first possession of the fourth quarter to pull ahead 53-40, but Valpo held the Panthers to just two points over a stretch of nearly eight minutes to allow the comeback to ensue.
- It was contributions across the board which gave the Beacons an opportunity to nose their way back into contention. The first spurt featured three points from Leah Earnest, a bucket from Maya Dunson and a pair of free throws by Shay Frederick to cut the UNI lead to 53-47 with 7:07 to play.
- The Panthers got a second-chance basket on their next trip to push the lead back to eight points, where it would stay until the clock ticked inside four minutes.
- Grace White broke the two-way scoring drought with a drive and finish, and after the Valpo defense forced a UNI shot clock violation, Ilysse Pitts came up with a big 3-point play with three minutes remaining to bring the Beacons within 55-52.
- After the teams traded turnovers, Valpo forced another Panther miss and came down to tie the game for the first time since 0-0, as Pitts hit White for a triple — the team’s lone 3-pointer of the fourth quarter — to even things up, 55-55, with 2:10 to go.
- UNI split a pair of free throws on its next trip before the Beacons came back and took their first lead of the game, courtesy of an Earnest feed to Olivia Brown for a layup with 1:15 to go.
- The Panthers inched back in front as Karli Rucker connected on a floater on their offensive end at the 1:02 mark, but that just set the stage for the game-clinching basket by Frederick while taking contact to make it a two-point lead with 51 seconds to go.
- UNI missed a 16-foot baseline jumper out of a timeout, and Valpo ran the shot clock all the way down before missing a 3-point attempt. The Panthers had one last shot, but their try from deep was off the mark and the buzzer sounded as the rebound hit the floor, setting off the Valpo celebration.
- Valpo closes the weekend road swing through central Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Bradley.
- The Beacons then return home to the ARC next weekend to take on Indiana State and Evansville.
...on the road
- Friday marks the 10th of 16 road games for Valpo this season. The Beacons are 1-8 on the road so far this season.
- Valpo has finished at or above .500 in each of the last two seasons in true road games, going 6-6 on the road last year and 9-5 in 2019-20.
- Illinois State sits at 7-7 overall, but is 3-0 to top the MVC standings after sweeping Indiana State and Evansville on the road last weekend.
- Juliunn Redmond leads three Redbids averaging in double figures, scoring 14.7 points/game.
- Reigning MVC Player of the Week Mary Crompton averages 10.4 points/game and tops the Valley, shooting at a .419 clip from beyond the arc.
- Valpo’s win over Drake on Sunday was the first in program history over the Bulldogs.
- Drake previously owned a 13-0 advantage in the series, 11 of which had come since Valpo joined the Valley.
- That leaves Missouri State as the lone program the Beacons have yet to beat since joining the MVC.
- The win over Drake also gave Valpo its first sweep of the UNI/Drake weekend in MVC play.
- It is Valpo’s fourth sweep of a weekend set since joining the Valley. Valpo previously swept both the home and road Indiana State/Evansville weekends in 2019-20, and took down Southern Illinois twice on back-to-back days last season.
Bookending the Weekend
- Sixth-year forward Caitlin Morrison enjoyed both a stellar start and finish to Valpo’s weekend sweep last weekend.
- When she stepped into the center circle for the opening tip against UNI on Friday, Morrison broke Valpo career records for both games played and game started - marks which now sit at 127 and 123, respectively, following the Drake game.
- Then, on Sunday against Drake, Morrison hit a triple with under two minutes to play to cap a 7-for-9 shooting performance from 3-point range to match her career best with 21 points.
- The seven triples are tied for fifth-most in a single game in program history, with Frederick last season at Wisconsin the only other Valpo player in the last decade to connect on seven or more 3-pointers in a contest.
- Morrison’s .778 clip from deep on Sunday is tied for fourth-best in a single game in program history.
What a Rally
- Friday’s win marked the 11th time in the four-year tenure of head coach Mary Evans that Valpo has rallied from down double digits to win.
- The 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter ties the program’s largest comeback in the final period since the move to quarters — Valpo previously rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter in a 66-64 win over Loyola on Jan. 24, 2020. Ironically, the two-point final margin in that win was also secured by a 3-point play from Frederick.
- The last time Valpo rallied from a larger deficit within the game’s final 10 minutes came at Loyola on Feb. 17, 2011. Valpo trailed that day by 14 points with 8:45 to play and went on to a 72-68 victory.
Frederick Moves On Up
- One season after leading the Valley in assists, Shay Frederick again tops the chart this season, and she enjoyed the best game of her career distributing the basketball last time out.
- Frederick handed out 10 assists in the victory over Drake to set a new career high in the category, the first time a Valpo player has been in double figures in assists since 2017 and just the third-such effort by an MVC player this season.
- Frederick now has 417 career assists and is just seven shy of Mo Drabicki for third place in program history in the category.
- One of 17 players in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone for her career, Frederick surpassed Suzie Hammel for 15th place in program history in career scoring in the win over the Bulldogs, and with 1,080 career points, is just one point shy of Lynda Kukla for 14th.
- Frederick is one of just two players in program history with at least 1,000 career points and 400 career assists, and just one of three active MVC players above those marks (Brice Calip, MSU-1489/432; Karli Rucker, UNI-1599/452).
- Frederick also moved into a tie for sixth place all-time at Valpo with 171 career triples last time out, matching Sarah Lenschow and Aimee Litka.
Liv Breaks Out
- Junior Olivia Brown has stood out for the Beacons since the start of MVC play.
- In Valpo’s first four MVC games, Brown is averaging 14 ppg on 61.1% shooting from the field and 58.8% from 3-point range.
- This comes after Brown averaged just 2.5 ppg through non-conference action and hit a total of nine field goals in the first 11 games.
- Included among her efforts in conference play so far are three double-digit scoring performances, and she has led all players twice - with 21 points at Missouri State and with 18 points in the win over UNI.
- Brown was named MVC Newcomer of the Week on Monday for her performances in the victories over UNI and Drake - Valpo’s first MVC Newcomer of the Week since March 9, 2020.
Top 100 Wins
- Valpo has made a habit of knocking off top-100 opponents in MVC play over the last few seasons and did so twice last weekend.
- Friday’s win came over a UNI team which entered the night ranked #46 in NET, and Sunday’s victory came over a Drake squad which was #65.
- It marks Valpo’s sixth and seventh top-100 NET/RPI wins in Valley action over the last three seasons.
- Prior to its Feb. 16, 2020 win at Illinois State - its first top-100 win in conference play since joining the Valley - Valpo had gone nearly seven years without a top-100 victory.
Limiting the Opponents
- Valpo’s defense limited Missouri State to 29.7% shooting (19-of-64) from the field and just 2-for-22 from 3-point range in Springfield.
- It was the Lady Bears’ second-worst shooting performance of the season and their lowest number of 3-pointers made.
- It was the first time Valpo held an opponent below 30% shooting since limiting Illinois State to 28.8% from the floor last Jan. 15.
- It also was the worst 3-point shooting performance by a Valpo foe since the Lady Bears matched the 9.1% clip from deep last Jan. 30.
- Then, on Friday in the win over UNI, Valpo limited the Panthers to a season-low 58 points.
- The Panthers hit at just a 32.4% clip from the field, their second-worst shooting percentage of the season, besting only their effort against Iowa. The Beacons also sent UNI to the free throw line for just six attempts.
- Valpo continued to limit its opponents from deep since starting Valley play, as Drake was just 5-for-26 from 3-point range. The Beacons’ opponents are hitting at just 18.8% from deep through the first four MVC games.
- Valpo also forced 20 turnovers from Drake, matching a season high for turnovers forced.