The Valpo women’s basketball team trailed Big Ten foe Wisconsin in Madison Wednesday evening by just two at halftime, but the host Badgers pulled away in the second half as the Beacons fell by a 59-44 final.
How It Happened
- Valpo got out to a quick start to the game, outscoring the Badgers 12-2 over the game’s first 5:02. Junior Ava Interrante (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) had a 3-pointer during the run, while junior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) had seven points and an offensive rebound which kept a possession alive for a layup from sophomore Katie Beyer (McHenry, Ill./McHenry).
- The Beacons were held scoreless for the next eight-plus minutes, a stretch which saw Wisconsin go on a 20-0 run to take a 22-12 lead.
- A pair of free throws from senior Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) with 6:41 to play in the first half snapped the Badgers’ run and started an eight-point spurt of Valpo’s own, as two free throws by sophomore Olivia Sims (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy [Oakland]) made it a two-point game with 3:11 to go in the period.
- The two squads traded just one bucket apiece in the final three minutes of the half, with Wisconsin holding a slim 24-22 lead at intermission.
- The Badgers scored inside on each of their first three possessions of the second half to gain separation, pulling out to an eight-point lead. A layup from Beyer with 4:40 to play in the quarter made it a four-point game at 30-26, and fifth-year Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) converted a fast-break basket with 3:04 to play in the period to make it 33-28.
- Wisconsin would extend its lead in the late stages of the third quarter, pushing its edge to 40-30 with 10 minutes to play on a last-second score from Sania Copeland.
- Freshman Ali Saunders (Depauw, Ind./North Harrison) hit a 3-pointer on Valpo’s second possession of the fourth quarter to bring the Beacons to within 40-33, but that was as close as Valpo would get in the final period.
Inside the Game
- Wednesday’s game was a makeup of a Dec. 22 postponement. It marked the first time Valpo has played a nonconference game after starting conference play since the 2008-09 season.
- Making her return to her home state, Earnest enjoyed a strong performance against the Badgers Wednesday. The junior scored a team-best 16 points and dominated on the glass, pulling down a game-high 13 rebounds — just one off her career high.
- The double-double was the sixth of the season for Earnest. She has more double-doubles this year than Valpo has had as a team in a single season since 2017-18, while the last individual to post at least six double-doubles in one campaign was Dani Franklin, with eight in 2016-17.
- Earnest was the lone Beacon to score in double figures, however, as the Badgers limited Valpo to 31.3% shooting from the field and 5-of-23 from the 3-point line while forcing 22 turnovers.
- On the flip side, the Beacons held the hosts to 35.8% shooting — the second-lowest clip of the season by a Valpo opponent. The Badgers also were just 4-of-22 from the 3-point line.
- Pitts joined Earnest in hitting the boards hard on Wednesday evening, coming down with eight rebounds. The eight boards ties her career high, set 89 games ago against North Dakota State in Dec. 2018 during her freshman season.
Valpo (3-14, 1-7 MVC) returns to the Valley grind on Friday evening as the Beacons welcome MVC co-leader Illinois State to the ARC. The game is set for a 6 p.m. tip and can be seen live on ESPN3.