Valparaiso (2-4, 0-0 MVC)
Game #7 - Dec. 7, 2022 - 6 p.m.
Western Michigan (2-5, 0-0 MAC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team will step on the floor of the ARC for a game for the last time for nearly a month on Wednesday evening as the Beacons take on Western Michigan. Following Wednesday’s game, Valpo will be on the road for its next four games and won’t have another home game until Jan. 5, 2023.
Previously: A scorching start to the game from visiting Bowling Green proved to be too much for Valpo to overcome on Friday evening at the ARC, as the Falcons went on to a 92-61 victory over the Beacons. Ali Saunders paced the Beacons with 16 points and five assists.
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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 50-72. 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: Wednesday marks the 14th meeting in the all-time series between Valpo and Western Michigan, with the Broncos holding a 9-4 advantage in the first 13 matchups. It’s been a much more even series on Valpo’s home court, however, as the two programs have split six matchups hosted by Valpo. This marks the third consecutive season the two teams have played - last year, WMU earned a 69-54 win in Kalamazoo despite a 16-point performance from Grace White. The December 2020 matchup went Valpo’s way, 75-51, as Carie Weinman delivered 24 points and Caitlin Morrison posted 18 points and 10 rebounds.
- 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 Bowling Green
- The Falcons started 11-of-12 from the field over the opening eight minutes, a stretch which included five 3-pointers and a 3-point play.
- Bowling Green led 30-11 at the end of the opening period, 50-24 at halftime and 76-42 with 10 minutes to play. Valpo outscored the Falcons 19-16 in the fourth quarter.
- Freshman Ali Saunders tied for game-high honors with 16 points, hitting 5-of-7 from the floor — including two 3-pointers — and a perfect 4-of-4 from the foul line. She also set a season high with five assists.
- The Beacons hit at a 47.8% clip (22-for-46) from the field on Friday and were above 50% from the floor until the fourth quarter. Valpo also set a season high for 3-pointers, making 11 triples on 37.9% shooting from deep.
- Bowling Green was the first Valpo opponent since Bradley in February 2020 to top 90 points in a game. The Falcons shot 55.4% (31-for-56) from the field and 58.3% (14-for-24) from 3-point range — the most triples surrendered by Valpo in a single game since December 2016.
- The turnover battle was a tale of two halves. Valpo committed 14 first-half turnovers to BGSU’s three and was outscored 17-0 in points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes, but turned it around in the second half with a 10-3 advantage in turnover margin and a 10-2 edge in points off turnovers.
- After three straight games with double-digit offensive rebounds, Valpo was held without a live ball offensive board by the Falcons on Friday. BGSU held a 35-18 overall advantage on the glass and a 19-3 edge in second-chance points.
- Valpo was within 10-8 at the first quarter media timeout, but the Wildcats outscored the Beacons 12-2 over the final four minutes of the period to lead 22-10 at the end of one.
- Northwestern extended its lead to 45-22 at intermission.
- The Wildcats scored the first three points of the third quarter, but Valpo came back and outscored Northwestern 16-8 the remainder of the period to close to within 56-38 with 10 minutes to play.
- Northwestern scored the first six points of the final period to keep the Beacons from continuing their rally.
- Valpo was limited to a season-worst 24.6% shooting from the field and committed a season-high 28 turnovers.
- The Beacons did force 17 Northwestern turnovers — 10 of which were steals, led by three from Ilysse Pitts — but were outscored 27-3 in points off turnovers.
- Leah Earnest was the only Valpo player to score in double figures Sunday, tallying 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
- Valpo’s final game before a break for final exams will be a road test at Western Illinois this Friday, Dec. 9.
- After 13 days away from action, the Beacons return to competition Dec. 22 at Wisconsin.
...at the ARC
- Friday’s game is the fifth of 15 home games this season for Valpo and the final home nonconference game.
- The Beacons are 1-3 at home so far this year and went 6-7 in home games last season.
- Western Michigan enters Wednesday’s game with a 2-5 overall record, most recently dropping games at Colorado (75-37) and Colorado State (85-65).
- The Broncos are led by Lauren Ross, who is averaging 18.3 points/game and scored 27 against Valpo last season.
- After going 16-14 overall and 10-10 last season, WMU was picked to finish in sixth place in the MAC preseason poll and Ross was a preseason Second Team All-MAC selection.
Happy Trails Until 2023
- Despite being within the first week of December, Wednesday’s home game will be the Beacons’ last at the ARC in the 2022 calendar year.
- Valpo will not play another home game after Wednesday until welcoming Evansville to town on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.
- The Beacons will play their final two nonconference games (at Western Illinois and Wisconsin) and their first two MVC games (at Belmont and Murray State) in between these two home games.
- The 29 days between home games is the longest stretch between regular season home games for Valpo since the 1999-2000 team went 35 days between playing Eastern Michigan at the ARC on Dec. 9 and Oakland at home on Jan. 13.
Familiar With MACtion
- MAC programs have become standard on Valpo’s nonconference schedule under head coach Mary Evans, who came to Valpo from a MAC program - Ohio.
- This year’s team will play three MAC teams in early-season action. The Beacons already took on Central Michigan and Bowling Green and will face Western Michigan on Wednesday.
- In Evans’ five years at the helm of the Valpo program, the team has faced MAC opposition 15 times in nonconference play.
Hitting From Deep
- Valpo connected on a season-high 11 3-pointers last time out against Bowling Green and hit at a 37.9% clip from deep after shooting below 30% from downtown each of its last two games.
- Eight different players combined for the 11 triples on Friday night, led by three from Leah Earnest, who matched her career best for 3-pointers made in a game for the second straight contest.
- Valpo has hit 11 3-pointers in its games against Western Michigan each of the last two seasons.
Earnest Crashes the Boards
- Leading the way on the glass in the MVC this season has been junior Leah Earnest, with three double-figure rebounding performances and a 9.2 rebounds/game average to top the conference and rank among the top-60 nationally.
- Earnest now owns the top-two individual rebounding efforts in head coach Mary Evans’ tenure with 14 against EIU and 13 against UAB.
- Earnest is the first Valpo player to secure at least 27 combined rebounds in consecutive games since Amber Lindfors grabbed 17 boards against Northern Kentucky and 12 against Oakland in February 2017.
- Earnest has also been consistently on the scoresheet, going for a career-best 20 points at CMU, 12 points against Southern Miss, 11 points versus Eastern Illinois, 13 points against UAB, a team-high 13 points at Northwestern and 13 points last time out versus Bowling Green.
- She has been impressively prolific inside the arc, hitting 71.9% (23-of-32) from 2-point range - among the top-30 nationally.
- Combining her scoring and rebounding, Earnest has registered three double-doubles after recording just two combined in her first two seasons.
- Earnest is the first player in program history to tally three double-doubles in the first four games of a season.
- Earnest already has as many double-doubles this season as the entire Valpo team did last season - in fact, Valpo has not tallied more than three double-doubles as a team in any of the last three years.
A New Rookie Standard
- Freshman Ali Saunders set a new mark for Valpo rookies as she scored 32 points against UAB.
- The previous freshman record is unknown, but there have now been 16 games in program history a Valpo player has scored 32 or more points, and none of the previous 15 came from a rookie.
- As of Monday, Saunders is one of only five D-I freshmen to score 32 or more points in a game this season, joining Minnesota’s Mara Braun, Florida State’s Ta’Niya Latson and Northern Colorado’s Gabi Fields.
- Saunders posted the highest-scoring game by any Valpo player since Dani Franklin dropped 33 points against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 3, 2016.
- Saunders has been in double figures in five of the first six games of her career, including each of the first four - the first Valpo freshman since Franklin in 2014-15 to do so.
- 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.
Who’s Coming In
- Four high school seniors signed NLIs to join the Valpo women’s basketball program as freshmen for the 2023-24 season last month.
- Twins Nevaeh and Saniya Jackson, out of Northrop [Ind.] H.S., are both 6-0 and both earned Second Team All-State honors last season.
- Layla Gold is a 5-11 G/F out of Cathedral [Ind.] H.S. who helped lead her team to a city championship and was named a Top 10 Player in her class by the Indy Star.
- A 5-6 guard, Raeven Raye-Redmond won a national championship on the AAU circuit last summer with West Virginia Thunder and is ranked 23rd in her class in the state of Ohio by Prep Girls Hoops.