Valpo women’s basketball senior Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) matched her career high with 24 points on Sunday at the ARC, while junior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) delivered 19 points as part of her seventh double-double of the year to lead the way as the Beacons closed out the first half of MVC play with a 78-71 victory over Bradley.
How It Happened
- Bradley jumped out to an early four-point lead before 3-pointers from Ava Interrante (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) and Brown gave Valpo a 10-8 edge with 5:32 to go in the opening period.
- Brown carried the Beacons’ offense in the first quarter, scoring the final three of her 13 first-quarter points on a triple with 1:05 to play in the period to put Valpo on top, 18-16.
- But the Braves came back with a 3-pointer of their own the next time down the floor for the fifth and final lead change of the quarter, as they led 19-18 10 minutes into the game.
- Most of the second quarter was played with a narrow three-point spread, from a two-point Valpo lead to a one-point Bradley edge.
- Valpo finally broke through with six straight points late in the quarter, the last two coming on a pull-up jumper at the free throw line by freshman Ali Saunders (Depauw, Ind./North Harrison) inside the final minute to push the lead to six points before Bradley hit one final triple to cut Valpo’s lead to 35-32 at intermission.
- The Beacons led throughout the third quarter, matching their largest lead of the game three minutes into the second half on a second-chance 3-pointer by Brown to go up 46-40.
- The Braves cut the lead to one point three minutes later, and it was still just a two-point Valpo lead at 53-51 with 1:08 to play in the quarter.
- A critical 30-second stretch gave the Beacons breathing room, as Brown hit a 3-pointer, Brown came up with a steal on the defensive end and Interrante canned a triple of her own. Saunders assisted on both 3-pointers, which pushed Valpo to an eight-point advantage en route to a 59-53 lead with 10 minutes to play.
- The lead reached double figures just 70 seconds into the fourth quarter thanks to layups by junior Jayda Johnston (Roseville, Minn./Roseville Area) on each of Valpo’s first two possessions of the final period, forcing a Bradley timeout.
- The Braves slowly chipped into Valpo’s lead, making it a five-point game inside of five minutes before Earnest converted a second-chance layup to help keep Bradley at bay.
- A layup from Saunders with 3:19 to play extended it to 70-61 Beacons before Bradley put together a 7-2 run over the next 1:44, cutting it to 72-68 with 1:35 to play.
- But Bradley couldn’t score further if it didn’t have the ball, and Valpo erased over a minute off the game clock on its next offensive possession. The Beacons missed a pair of 3-point attempts during the trip, but Brown hit the glass, coming down with a pair of offensive rebounds to extend the possession. Bradley finally fouled Saunders to send her to the line with 34 seconds to play, and the rookie calmly knocked down both to make it a 74-68 game.
- The Beacons got a pair of stops on their next two defensive possessions, the second of which was a block of a 3-point attempt by Saunders, to secure the victory.
Inside the Game
- Brown’s 13-point first-quarter explosion propelled her to a game-best 24 points, surpassing her previous high in the Valpo uniform and matching her career best — set back in December 2019.
- The senior went 8-of-10 from the field, including a 6-of-8 mark from the 3-point line. The 6-of-8 effort from deep matches her performance in the MVC opener at Belmont, tying a career high for 3-pointers made and tying for the seventh-best 3-point percentage in a single game in program history.
- Brown’s two offensive boards in the final minute gave her seven rebounds on the afternoon, her new high at Valpo and just one off her career best.
- Brown’s 13-point first quarter matched the high quarter for a Valpo player this season, accomplished last time out by Johnston against Illinois State. It is the third time this year Brown has scored in double figures for a single period.
- Earnest finished just one point off her career high with a 19-point afternoon. The junior picked up her seventh double-double of the campaign as she tied for game-high honors with 11 rebounds.
- Earnest also rewrote her career bests in a pair of other categories. She dished out four assists for the first time in her collegiate career and matched her career high with three steals.
- Saunders chipped in 15 points off the bench, reaching double figures for the 10th time this season, and added a game-high five assists to match her season best.
- Fifth-year guard Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) handed out four assists as well in the winning effort.
- Valpo posted its season-high point total in regulation with its 78 points on Sunday. The Beacons shot 48.2% (27-of-56) from the floor, their best shooting percentage since the MVC opener at Belmont, and were 9-of-24 from 3-point range.
- Valpo won despite Bradley hitting at a 50% clip from the field and going 6-of-12 from the 3-point line.
- The Beacons committed just eight turnovers on Sunday, a season low and the team’s lowest total since surrendering the ball just seven times on Feb. 10, 2022 — notably, also a home win over Bradley. While Valpo forced just 11 Bradley miscues, it held a 17-7 edge in points off turnovers.
Postgame Press Conference (Head Coach Mary Evans, Olivia Brown, Leah Earnest)
Valpo (4-15, 2-8 MVC) opens the second half of the conference slate Wednesday evening at the ARC as UIC comes to town for a 6 p.m. tip. The game can be seen live on ESPN+.