Two days after using its best defensive performance of the season to earn a win at Indiana State, the Valpo women’s basketball team flipped the script and used perhaps its best offensive effort this year on Sunday to pick up a 74-68 victory at Evansville and complete the weekend sweep of the downstate road swing.
How It Happened
- The Beacons started the game strong, hitting 6-of-11 from the floor in the opening quarter, including four 3-pointers. Valpo’s advantage was as many as seven points in the first quarter before Evansville closed to within 20-17 at the end of the period.
- Valpo maintained its advantage throughout the second quarter, but was never able to push its lead past six points. It was a 35-33 Beacon lead going into intermission.
- Evansville came out of halftime and scored on five of its first seven possessions, putting together an 11-2 run to take the lead and push it out to 44-37, forcing a Valpo timeout with 6:09 to play in the third quarter.
- With the deficit still seven approaching four minutes to play in the period, fifth-year Maya Dunson (Dayton, Ohio/Wayne [Loyola]) helped erase nearly the whole Purple Aces lead, hitting two 3-pointers in a four-possession span as part of an 8-2 run which brought Valpo back to within one.
- Later in the quarter, senior Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) connected on a 3-pointer to level the game with 47 seconds to play in the period. Evansville scored the final basket of the quarter, however, to lead 55-53 with 10 minutes remaining.
- Much like a 10-0 run on Friday in the fourth quarter proved to be the vital stretch in that victory, the Beacons scored seven straight in a span of 1:23 to open the fourth quarter Sunday to take the lead for good.
- Fifth-year Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) opened the period with a driving layup and then came up with a steal on the defensive end, feeding junior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) for a basket which put Valpo in front.
- The next time down the floor, it was Brown who finished at the rim through contact and completed the old-fashioned 3-point play, and all of a sudden, Valpo led 60-55 with 8:37 to play.
- The Beacons maintained at least a three-point lead, and a 3-pointer by Earnest with 4:58 remaining pushed the edge to 65-59. A layup from Earnest with 3:17 to play again made it a six-point advantage.
- Evansville came down and hit a triple mere seconds later, though, and for the first time since the spurt at the beginning of the quarter, the Purple Aces had the ball with a chance to tie on each of their next two possessions. But two missed shots were both cleaned up by Beacon rebounders.
- Freshman Ali Saunders (Depauw, Ind./North Harrison) was fouled on each of Valpo’s next two possessions and hit 3-of-4 from the foul line around a pair of Evansville free throws, making it 70-66 Valpo with 1:10 to play.
- The biggest plays of the game on both sides of the ball came within the next 40 seconds. On the defensive end, the Beacons forced a loose ball which was eventually corralled by Dunson. Valpo then ran down the shot clock nearly the entire 30 seconds offensively before Earnest drove and finished to make it 72-66 Beacons with 31.5 seconds to play, a basket which essentially closed the door on the Purple Aces.
Inside the Game
- The win completed a weekend sweep of the downstate Indiana road trip for the Beacons. This is the third straight season (excepting the COVID-affected 2020-21 campaign) that Valpo has swept both halves of the Indiana State/Evansville road swing — the first time in program history it has swept the same two-game conference road trip three straight times.
- Sunday was Valpo’s first victory when trailing after three quarters since coming from behind to win at Drake on Feb. 4, 2022.
- As mentioned, Sunday was right there for the Beacons’ best offensive performance of the season. Valpo shot at a 51.1% clip (24-of-47) from the field, a season-best percentage from the floor.
- The Beacons were 10-of-18 from behind the 3-point line, the fifth time this season they have reached double digits in 3-pointers. Seven different Valpo players hit at least one triple.
- The 55.6% clip from deep was the program’s best since hitting 75% at Southern Illinois on Feb. 27, 2021.
- Valpo also committed just 13 turnovers in the victory, tied for its second-fewest within MVC play this season.
- It was a balanced effort on the offensive end, with four players scoring in double figures and two others recording at least seven points. For the second straight game, Brown led the way for Valpo with 16 points — doing so on Sunday on 5-of-7 shooting from field, including 3-of-4 from deep.
- Earnest scored nine of her 14 points in the final quarter while also adding five rebounds.
- Playing in front of a strong contingent of family members and friends, Saunders helped ice the game by going 5-of-6 from the foul line down the stretch to close out a 10-point afternoon, while Dunson hit a pair of 3-pointers to score 10 points as well, reaching double figures for the second time this year.
- Redshirt junior Emma Tecca (Tallamadge, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban [Akron]) continued her strong recent play with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting.
- Pitts chipped in seven points, led Valpo with eight rebounds to tie a career best and dished out a game-high five assists to tie her season high.
Valpo (6-19, 4-12 MVC) continues its current stretch of home games on Thursday as it attempts to make it three victories in a row when the Beacons visit Bradley. Game time is slated for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen live on ESPN+.