Valparaiso (2-0, 0-0 MVC)
Game #3 - Nov. 16, 2022 - noon
Eastern Illinois (2-0, 0-0 Ohio Valley)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: With back-to-back victories to start the 2022-23 season under its belt, the Valpo women’s basketball team takes aim at just the second 3-0 start in program history on Wednesday afternoon when the Beacons welcome Eastern Illinois to the ARC for a noon matinee.
Previously: Valpo made it a successful home opener on Saturday, taking the lead for good with three minutes to play in the third quarter and getting some clutch fourth-quarter shots to keep visiting Southern Miss at bay en route to a 72-65 victory. Olivia Brown led four Valpo players in double figures with 15 points, while the Beacons held the Golden Eagles to 36.9% shooting from the field.
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Head Coach Mary Evans: Mary Evans is in her fifth year at the helm of the program in 2022-23 and owns a record of 50-68. Evans has made an impact on the program in her first four 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 in each of the last three seasons and in steals per game in two of the last three years.
Series Notes: Valpo has controlled the all-time series against Eastern Illinois, entering Wednesday afternoon with an 12-4 advantage in the series. Valpo has won eight straight against the Panthers - four in Valpo and four in Charleston - dating back to 1996. The two teams last met in December 2019, the final of four straight years matching up in non-conference action. Grace Hales led the way with 25 points in that game and Grace White contributed 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as Valpo earned a 78-66 win at Eastern Illinois.
- Valpo was picked to finish in 10th place in the MVC preseason poll, totaling 197 points, just 10 points behind Evansville.
- Valpo is in its sixth season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Valley was ranked 10th in conference NET last year, 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 finished last year with an 11-19 overall record, but was strong in MVC play, going 9-9 in conference and finishing in sixth place - both of which match the program’s best since joining the Valley.
- The Beacons registered the first win at Drake and the first win at Bradley in program history.
- Valpo swept the season series over Drake, the program’s first two wins ever against the Bulldogs.
- The Beacons also tallied four top-100 wins within Valley play.
- Grace White was named MVC Sixth Player of the Year - the program’s first major postseason award since joining the Valley. Shay Frederick was a First Team All-MVC choice, while White was an All-Defensive Team selection and Olivia Brown earned a spot on the All-Newcomer Team.
...versus Southern Miss
- It was a tight game throughout for the most part, as the largest lead either team had in the first three quarters was six points.
- Valpo took the lead for good with a three-minute stretch where the Beacons outscored USM, 13-5, in the third quarter, flipping a four-point deficit into a four-point lead.
- Valpo quickly pushed its lead to nine points with 8:25 to play in the fourth quarter before the Golden Eagles cut the lead to two with 5:52 to play.
- Three times in the next three minutes, after Southern Miss had moved within one possession, Valpo countered with a 3-pointer, getting big triples from Ilysse Pitts, Olivia Brown and Maya Dunson.
- USM got to within 67-64 with 1:43 to go, but Valpo limited the Golden Eagles to one point the rest of the way.
- The win came over a Southern Miss program which won 18 games a season ago.
- Leading four players in double figures in scoring was Brown, who delivered 15 points to pace Valpo for the fourth time in her time as a Beacon. The senior also matched her high in a Valpo uniform with six rebounds.
- After going for 20 points in Monday’s season opener, Leah Earnest followed up with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting Saturday while again leading the team on the glass with eight rebounds.
- Ali Saunders again delivered an offensive spark off the bench, needing just 13 minutes of action to pour in 11 points and dish out three assists.
- Pitts hit a career-best three triples (3-5 3PT) as part of a 10-point performance. The veteran matched her career high in scoring for the third time, but hit double figures for the first time since Dec. 16, 2018.
...at Central Michigan
- Valpo trailed by seven early in the first quarter, but rallied to lead by two at the end of the period and was ahead 33-32 at intermission.
- The Beacons took the lead for good early in the third quarter and led 55-48 with 10 minutes to play.
- CMU cut the lead to one possession three times in the game’s final four minutes, but each time Valpo responded with points on its end - the last a driving layup by Ilysse Pitts with 1:02 to play after CMU had made it a 64-62 game.
- Leah Earnest set a career high with 20 points to lead all players, hitting 8-of-11 from the field, and matched her career best with 10 rebounds.
- Earnest was one of four Valpo players to score in double figures, as Olivia Brown and Katie Beyer scored 11 points apiece and Ali Saunders added 10.
- The Beacons shot 51% from the field and limited CMU to 31.6% shooting.
- The Beacons were an efficient 7-of-17 from 3-point range while CMU was just 3-of-27 from deep.
- Valpo concludes a stretch of three consecutie home games as it hosts UAB next Monday evening, Nov. 21.
- The Beacons’ next game away from home won’t be until Nov. 27, when they travel to Northwestern.
...at the ARC
- Saturday’s game is the seocnd of 15 home games this season for Valpo, five of which will be nonconference games.
- The Beacons are 1-0 at home so far this year and went 6-7 in home games last season.
- The Panthers will also be 2-0 when they come to the ARC Wednesday afternoon, as they defeated Missouri St. Louis last Monday before squeaking out a 64-62 road win at Western Illinois this Monday.
- EIU posted a 16-14 record last season and went 11-7 in Ohio Valley Conference play.
- The Panthers feature preseason OVC Player of the Year Lariah Washington and another preseason All-OVC selection in Morgan Litwiller. EIU was picked to finish fourth in the OVC preseason poll.
A 2-0 Beginning
- With its 71-64 win at Central Michigan and a 72-65 win over Southern Miss, Valpo has opened the 2022-23 season 2-0.
- It is just the fifth time in program history Valpo has opened with wins in each of its first two games, and the first 2-0 mark for the program since 2012-13.
- Notably, this is the program’s first 2-0 start in which both wins have come over D-I teams.
- A win on Wednesday would improve Valpo’s record to 3-0, a mark which has only been accomplished by the 2009-10 team.
Earnest Leads the Way
- Leah Earnest wasted no time asserting herself as the 2022-23 campaign got underway at CMU, setting her career best with 20 points and matching her career high with 10 rebounds for her second career double-double.
- It was the first double-double by a Valpo player since Shay Frederick tallied 17 points and 11 assists Feb. 10 at Bradley.
- Earnest is the first Valpo player with a double-double in a season opener since Bryce Blood vs. IU Kokomo to open the 2017-18 season (13 PTS/13 REB), and the first in a season opener against a D-I opponent since Aimee Litka vs. Bowling Green in 2008-09 (17 PTS/12 REB).
- Earnest followed with 12 points (6-10 FG) and a team-high eight rebounds in the win over Southern Miss, as she averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game on 66.7% shooting in the two victories.
Saunders Wastes No Time
- Freshman Ali Saunders has jumped right into Valpo’s rotation off the bench as the reserve point guard and has made an immediate impact.
- Saunders opened her career with 10 points (2-3 FG; 5-6 FT) and two assists in 18 minutes of action in the win at CMU.
- The rookie followed with 11 points (4-8 FG; 3-3 FT) and three assists in just 13 minutes of playing time in the win over Southern Miss.
- Saunders is the first Valpo freshman to score in double figures in back-to-back games to open a career since Dani Franklin did so in 2014-15.
Four Score (In Double Figures)
- A comparison of last year’s regular season finale and this year’s season opener, both of which featured four Beacons scoring in double figures, shows how revamped this year’s squad is.
- In last year’s win over MVC champion Southern Illinois to close the regular season, Carie Weinman, Shay Frederick, Grace White and Caitlin Morrison scored in double figures - none of whom are on this year’s roster.
- Leah Earnest, Olivia Brown, Katie Beyer, and Ali Saunders scored in double figures last Monday in the win at Central Michigan.
- Once again, four Beacons finished in double figures in the win over Southern Miss - Brown, Earnest, Saunders and Ilysse Pitts - Pitts matching her career high for the first time in nearly four full years with 10 points.
- It is the first time since mid-January last season, at Bradley and against Indiana State, that Valpo has boasted four double-digit scorers in consecutive games.
- It is a revamped squad on the court for the Beacons in 2022-23.
- Valpo returns just 32.1% of their scoring, 38.1% of their rebounding, 24.4% of their assists and 35.9% of their minutes played from last year’s squad.
- Valpo lost its three leading scorers, four of its five leading rebounders and its three highest assist talliers from the 2021-22 team.
- Seven letterwinners return for the Beacons in 2022-23.
- Included among that group are four regulars from last year’s team, highlighted by senior Olivia Brown, who was an MVC All-Newcomer choice last season.
- Brown averaged 6.6 points/game and hit at a conference-best 39.8% clip from the 3-point line. Brown stepped up her game within Valley play, averaging 9.5 points/game in MVC action and hitting at a 42.4% rate from deep.
- Also returning from last year’s starting group is junior wing Leah Earnest. Earnest averaged 7.7 points/game and 4.6 rebounds/game in 2021-22, ranking second on the team in rebounding.
- She paced Valpo on the boards nine times and scored in double figures on nine occasions, including a pair of 17-point efforts.
- Fifth years Maya Dunson (3.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg) and Ilysse Pitts (1.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg) also saw regular action last season.
- Juniors Ava Interrante and Jayda Johnston and sophomore Katie Beyer look to take advantage of the available playing time entering this year.
- While Valpo has three freshmen on this year’s team, none of them are traditional true freshmen.
- Both Ella Van Weelden and Lovie Malone redshirted last season in their first year on campus.
- Meanwhile, Ali Saunders came to campus at the holiday break and spent the spring semester with the team.
- The Beacons also added a pair of transfers to the roster for this season.
- Emma Tecca spent three seasons at Akron, but used just one season of eligibility. Tecca hit at a 45.2% clip from behind the 3-point line in 2020-21 — a mark which ranks among the best single-season clips in Akron history.
- Olivia Sims was at Oakland last season, where she hit at a 46.9% clip from the 3-point line in 12 appearances. Sims scored in double figures four times, including a 12-point performance against Michigan State.