Valparaiso (2-10, 0-4 MVC)
Game #13 - Jan. 11, 2023 - 7 p.m.
at UIC (9-6, 1-3 MVC)
Credit Union 1 Arena (8,000) - Chicago, Ill.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team makes the quick trip up to Chicago on Wednesday night as the Beacons meet longtime rival UIC for the first time as MVC opponents.
Previously: Valpo held a five-point lead over visiting Indiana State Saturday afternoon at the ARC with less than six minutes to play, but the Sycamores scored on seven of their next eight possessions to take the lead and go on to a 66-58 victory. Four Beacons scored in double figures, including a career-best 14 points from Maya Dunson - all of which came in the second half.
Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN+
Radio: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso)
Streaming Audio: TuneIn app
Links for live coverage: Available via ValpoAthletics.com
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 50-78. 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 renews acquaintances with the most common opponent in program history on Wednesday, as the Beacons match up with UIC for the 51st time - the Flames hold a slim 26-24 edge in the series. The MVC marks the fourth different conference the two programs have shared affiliation in, as Valpo and UIC were both previously together in the North Star Conference (1988-92), the Mid-Continent Conference (1992-94) and the Horizon League (2007-17). An early-season matchup in Chicago last year saw Valpo lead by six in the fourth quarter before the Flames rallied for a 68-64 victory. Carie Weinman led all scorers in that contest with 23 points.
- 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 Indiana State
- Valpo led 14-3 just 4:01 into the ballgame, but went scoreless for the next 12 minutes as Indiana State claimed the lead.
- The teams were tied 23-all at halftime and the Beacons led 43-41 with 10 minutes to play.
- Consecutive 3-pointers from Maya Dunson and Ava Interrante gave Valpo a 54-49 lead with 5:20 to play, but Indiana State scored on seven of its next eight possessions to take control.
- Four Valpo players scored in double figures, led by 17 points from Olivia Brown, who went 5-of-8 from 3-point range — her second game in MVC play with at least five triples.
- Dunson set her career high by scoring 14 points — all of which came in the second half, 11 of them in the fourth quarter. She went an efficient 4-of-6 from the floor and hit all four of her free throw attempts..
- Interrante finished with 12 points to score in double figures for the third time this year, while Leah Earnest finished in double figures for the 10th time with 10 points.
- Earnest also led all players with 10 rebounds to register her fifth double-double of the campaign.
- Valpo outrebounded ISU 31-25 and gave up just seven offensive boards to a Sycamore team which outrebounded the Beacons by a combined 31 in the two matchups last season and grabbed 40 offensive rebounds over those two games.
- The +6 rebounding margin was the team’s second-best of the season and the first time in MVC play the Beacons have had the advantage on the glass.
- Valpo tied its season highs for both 3-pointers made and attempted by going 11-for-31 from the arc — the fourth time this year the Beacons have hit at least 10 triples. Valpo also matched a season high with 15 assists, five of which came from Brown to match her career best.
- The Beacons turned the ball over 22 times and forced just 10 miscues by the Sycamores. The 12-turnover disparity allowed ISU to hold a 20-6 edge in points off turnovers.
- Valpo led for most of the first quarter before trailing 18-17 at the end of one. The Beacons then scored just two second-quarter points, trailing 26-19 at the half despite giving up just eight points in the second period.
- Valpo got no closer than the halftime deficit in the second half.
- Valpo’s 45 points were a season low, but the Beacons’ defense also set a season best by limiting Evansville to 57 points.
- While Valpo was limited to just 29.4% shooting (5-of-17) from 3-point range, its struggles inside the arc were most notable. The Beacons entered the game hitting better than 50% on the season from 2-point range, but were just 33.3% (11-of-33) from inside on Thursday evening.
- Ali Saunders came off the bench to contribute a team-best 14 points and was also one of four Beacons to share team-high honors with five rebounds.
- Leah Earnest reached double digits as well, finishing with 11 points to score in double figures for the first time in three MVC games after tallying 10+ points in each of Valpo’s eight nonconference games.
- Valpo went a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line.
- Valpo makes a brief return to the ARC on Saturday to face off with Missouri State.
- The Beacons follow with three in a row on the road, starting with the Iowa road swing at UNI Thursday, Jan. 19 and at Drake Saturday, Jan. 21.
...on the road
- Wednesday’s game is the sixth of 14 true road games for Valpo this season and the third MVC road game.
- The Beacons are 1-4 so far this season on the road and posted a 5-11 record in true road games last season.
- UIC enters Wednesday’s game at 9-6 overall and 1-3 in MVC play, earning the first Valley win in program history last time out over Evansville to snap a five-game losing streak.
- The Flames were picked to finish in 12th place in the MVC preseason poll after posting a 2-25 record last season.
- Under first-year head coach Ashleen Bracey, three Flames are averaging in double figures in the scoring column this year, led by 12.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Josie Filer.
Hitting From Deep
- Senior Olivia Brown has been on fire from the 3-point line to start off MVC play.
- Brown is hitting at a 56.6% clip from downtown in the Beacons’ first four Valley games, going 15-of-26 from deep so far in conference.
- Brown leads the Valley in conference-only games in both 3-pointers/game and 3-point percentage.
- She went 6-of-8 from 3-point range at Belmont, a 75% clip which ranks among the top-10 single-game 3-point percentage marks in program history, and last time out, went 5-of-8 from deep against Indiana State.
- Overall this season, Brown is shooting 46.8% from 3-point land, a mark which would rank second in a single season in program history.
- Brown is just five 3-point attempts away from having enough tries to qualify for Valpo’s career 3-point percentage chart - her current 42.8% clip in the Valpo uniform would rank second all-time.
- Valpo’s 57-45 loss to Evansville last Thursday was notable for its low point total.
- The Beacons’45 points were a season low, and only a pair of matchups against UNI (38 in the regular season, 39 in the MVC Tournament) featured lower point totals for Valpo since Dec. 10 of last season.
- On the flip side, Valpo surrendered just 57 points, a season best defensively, besting its previous opponent low of 64 points at Central Michigan.
- The second quarter was especially notable. Valpo gave up just eight points to the Purple Aces, a season low by the Beacons’ opponents for any quarter, but scored just two points - its lowest in a quarter this season and tied for the fewest points in the second period since the move to quarters.
Earnest Crashes the Boards
- Junior Leah Earnest has been one of the Valley’s most effective rebounders this season and has six double-figure rebounding performances this year - most recently a 10-board effort last time out against Indiana State.
- Earnest’s average of 8.7 rebounds/game leads the Valley and ranks among the top-70 nationally.
- Earnest now owns the top-two individual rebounding efforts in head coach Mary Evans’ tenure with 14 against EIU and 13 against UAB.
- Combining her scoring and rebounding, Earnest has registered five double-doubles after recording just one in her first two seasons combined.
- Earnest is the first player in program history to tally three double-doubles in the first four games of a season.
- Earnest already has more double-doubles this season than Valpo has posted as a team in any of the last three seasons. She is the first Valpo player with at least five double-doubles in a single campaign since Dani Franklin tallied five during the 2017-18 season.
Big Half For Dunson
- It might be worth it for fifth-year Maya Dunson to pretend that she’s playing against Indiana State every time out.
- Dunson scored a then career-best 13 points last year at Indiana State, but one-upped that on Saturday with 14 points against the Sycamores to set a new career high.
- Notably, Dunson was scoreless at the half before scoring all 14 points in the second half - 11 of which came in the fourth quarter.
- Dunson became the third different Valpo player to score at least 10 points in a single quarter this year - Olivia Brown scored 10 in the fourth quarter against Western Michigan, while Ali Saunders scored 10 in the first quarter and 11 in the overtime period versus UAB.
Setting Career Bests
- Remarkably, Dunson is the second Beacon this season to set a career best in the scoring column with all the points coming in the second half.
- Previously, junior Ava Interrante was scoreless at halftime of Valpo’s Dec. 9 game at Western Illinois before scoring 15 points in the second half to surpass her career best.
- Also in that WIU game, junior Jayda Johnston raced past her previous high of six points just 2:05 into the second quarter on her way to a team-best 16 points.
- Nine of Valpo’s 11 players who have seen action this season have tied or set career bests for scoring - notably, three separate games have featured multiple Beacons hitting career highs.
- The season-opening win at Central Michigan featured career bests for Leah Earnest (20) and Katie Beyer (11), while Ali Saunders (32) and Olivia Sims (12) hit career highs in the overtime loss to UAB.
Top Scorers Doing So Efficiently
- Valpo’s top three scorers are all doing so at a very efficient clip.
- Olivia Brown is scoring a team-high 12.3 points/game on 46.2% shooting, Leah Earnest is averaging 11.6 points/game on 53.8% shooting and Ali Saunders 10.8 points/game on 47.2% shooting.
- Brown and Saunders are both hitting at least 40% of their 3-point attempts as well.
- Valpo has not had even one of its top scorers shoot at least 50% for a season since Sharon Karungi scored 11 points/game on 52.9% shooting in 2013-14.
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.
- Saunders posted the highest-scoring game by any Valpo player since Dani Franklin dropped 33 points against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 3, 2016.
- Saunders was in double figures in the scoring column in each of the first four games of her collegiate career - the first Valpo freshman since Franklin in 2014-15 to do so.