Valparaiso (6-19, 4-12 MVC)
Game #26 - Feb. 23, 2023 - 7 p.m.
at Bradley (3-24, 0-16 MVC)
Renaissance Coliseum (4,200) - Peoria, Ill.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: Coming off back-to-back road wins last weekend, the Valpo women’s basketball team turns right back around and returns to the road this weekend, starting off with a Thursday night game at Bradley.
Previously: Two days after using its best defensive performance of the season to earn a win at Indiana State, Valpo 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. Olivia Brown led four Beacons in double figures in the scoring column with 16 points.
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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 54-87. 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: Bradley leads the all-time series, 12-6, but Valpo has come away victorious in four of the last five meetings, including a 78-71 win at the ARC last month. Olivia Brown matched her career high in that victory with 24 points and went 6-of-8 from 3-point range to crack Valpo’s top-10 single-game 3-point percentage chart, while Leah Earnest delivered 19 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double.
- 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.
- Valpo was up by as many as seven points in the first half and led 20-17 at the end of the first quarter and 35-33 at halftime.
- Evansville opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run to go ahead by seven points. The Beacons erased the entire deficit, but the Purple Aces scored the final basket of the quarter to lead 55-53 with 10 minutes to play.
- 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.
- Ilysse Pitts opened the period with a driving layup and then came up with a steal on the defensive end, feeding junior Leah Earnest for a basket which put Valpo in front.
- The next time down the floor, it was Olivia 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 the rest of the way and held off two possessions in the final three minutes on which Evansville could have tied the game.
- The win completed a weekend sweep of the downstate Indiana road trip for the Beacons.
- Sunday was Valpo’s first victory when trailing after three quarters since coming from behind to win at Drake on Feb. 4, 2022.
- 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-8 shooting from field, including 3-of-4 from deep.
- Earnest scored nine of her 14 points in the final quarter, going 6-of-8 from the floor, 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.
... at Indiana State
- Valpo led 11-10 at the end of the first quarter and the game was tied at 25-25 at halftime, as neither side held more than a five-point lead in the opening 20 minutes.
- The Beacons took the lead for good at the third-quarter media timeout when an ISU basket earlier in the period was reversed for a shot clock violation.
- A 3-pointer and a 3-point play on consecutive possessions from Olivia Brown gave Valpo a five-point lead with 3:14 to play in the third quarter, and the Beacons led 38-34 with 10 minutes to play.
- The Sycamores got to within two points early in the third quarter, but Brown, Olivia Sims and Maya Dunson each hit a 3-pointer over a span of 2:42 as part of a 10-0 Valpo run to push the lead to 48-36 with 5:13 to play, and ISU would get no closer than nine points until the final seconds.
- Brown came off the bench to lead the Beacons in scoring for the 10th time this year. The senior led all players with her 16 points, as she shot 5-of-8 from the floor and knocked down 2-of-4 from the 3-point line.
- Sims tied her career best for the fifth time in her career and the third time this season, pouring in 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep.
- Dunson posted yet another strong performance against the Sycamores. This meeting saw her knock down a pair of 3-pointers en route to nine points, while Dunson also led all players with a career-high tying seven rebounds.
- Led by Dunson’s efforts on the glass, Valpo outrebounded Indiana State on the night, 35-29.
- Valpo’s four-game road stretch comes to a close Saturday afternoon at Illinois State.
- The regular season wraps up at the ARC the first weekend of March with games against Murray State and Belmont.
...on the road
- Sunday’s game is the 13th of 14 true road games for Valpo this season.
- The Beacons are currently 3-9 on the road.
- Bradley enters Thursday’s game at 3-24 overall and is at the bottom of the MVC standings at 0-16 in conference play.
- The Braves’ last win came back on Dec. 6 at Eastern Illinois.
- Bradley is led by Caroline Waite, who averages 12.3 points/game. Alex Rouse also averages in double figures at 11.4 points/game.
- Sunday’s win over Evansville featured perhaps the most efficient offensive performance of the year for the Beacons.
- 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.
- The stellar offense against Evansville came two days after the top defensive effort of the year in the win at Indiana State.
- Valpo held the Sycamores to 47 points, the season low for a Valpo opponent.
- The Beacons limited ISU to 35.4% shooting from the floor - the second-lowest clip by an opponent this season - and 3-of-14 from 3-point range - matching the fewest made triples by an opponent this year.
- Valpo also forced 19 Sycamore turnovers, tying for second-most by a Valpo opponent on the season.
- The 47 points allowed was the lowest by a Valpo squad since a 52-47 win at Purdue on Dec. 6, 2020. It was the Beacons’ best defensive effort in conference play since beating Indiana State 61-45 on Feb. 8, 2020.
Enjoying the Road
- The road was kind to Valpo last weekend, as it came away with a pair of road wins after entering the weekend with just one road victory to its credit this year.
- This marks the third consecutive season (excepting the COVID-affected 2020-21 season) that Valpo has swept the Indiana State/Evansville road swing - the first time in program history it has swept the same conference road trip three straight years.
- A win at Bradley would give Valpo three consecutive road wins in conference play for the first time since winning at Loyola once and at SIU twice in February 2021, and the first such streak against three different opponents since winning at Oral Roberts, Centenary and Western Illinois in January 2007.
On the Road Again
- After a lengthy home stretch, the Beacons are becoming familiar with the road again.
- Valpo came off a stretch where it played five out of six games at the ARC, spending just one night on the road in a span of 21 days.
- The script has been flipped, as Valpo is in the midst of four games in a nine-day stretch away from home.
- Outside of the COVID-affected 2020-21 campaign, it is the first time Valpo has played four conference games in a row away from home since the program’s first season in the North Star Conference in 1987-88. Those road games (Notre Dame, Dayton, Marquette, DePaul) were interspersed among nonconference games over a span of 36 days, however.
- Senior Olivia Brown posted back-to-back strong performances last weekend, scoring a game-high 16 points in the win at Indiana State and a team-best 16 points in the win at Evansville.
- Brown went 5-for-8 from deep in the pair of wins to get back on track from 3-point range, bumping her season 3-point percentage to .435, second-best in the Valley.
- She also is tied for fourth among MVC players with 2.2 triples/game.
- Brown has improved her shooting numbers in conference play to 2.5 3-pointers/game (2nd) on .471 shooting (2nd), including a pair of 6-of-8 efforts from downtown.
- Brown’s .435 season 3-point percentage would rank fourth in a season in program history, while her current career 3-point clip of .420 at Valpo ranks second in program history.
Earnest Doubles Up
- Junior Leah Earnest has been one of the Valley’s most effective rebounders this season, averaging 7.7 rebounds/game.
- She has posted nine double-figure rebounding performances this year - most recently a 12-board effort against UNI.
- Earnest now owns the top-three individual rebounding efforts in head coach Mary Evans’ tenure with 14 against EIU and 13 against both UAB and Wisconsin.
- Earnest also scored 10 points against the Panthers, giving her eight double-doubles this season 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 has more double-doubles this season than Valpo has posted as a team since the 2016-17 season. Her most recent double-double matched Dani Franklin, who tallied eight during the 2016-17 campaign, while her next one would mark the most since Jasmyn Walker posted nine double-doubles in 2014-15.
A Perfect Shooting Performance
- Freshman Ali Saunders was literally perfect when shots left her hands against UNI.
- Saunders was 7-for-7 from the field, including a 3-pointer, and was also 4-for-4 from the foul line to tie for game-high honors with 19 points.
- Saunders is the first Valpo player with a 100% field goal percentage on at least seven attempts since Tamra Braun went 10-for-10 at Oakland on Jan. 3, 2004.
- Along with her perfect shooting performance, Saunders dished out four assists. Per HerHoopStats.com, she is one of only four D-I players nationally with a game this season where they have gone 7-of-7 or better from the field and also tallied at least four assists.
- The most unlikely of this season’s double-digit quarters by Valpo players came against UNI.
- Emma Tecca, who entered the game averaging less than a point per game, scored 10 of her career-high 12 points in the fourth quarter against the Panthers.
- Tecca’s double-figure period was the ninth of the season, spread out among five Beacon players.
- It was the second of the weekend, as Ali Saunders scored 12 points (on four 3-pointers) in the fourth quarter against Drake.
- Saunders’ previous two double-digit periods both came in the same game - 10 points in the first quarter and 11 points in overtime versus UAB.
- Valpo’s season high for points in a quarter by a single player is 13, accomplished by both Olivia Brown and Jayda Johnston.
- Brown scored 13 in the first quarter against Bradley - her third double-digit quarter of the year, as she previously had 11 points in the second quarter at Drake and 10 points in the fourth quarter against Western Michigan.
- Johnston poured in 13 points in just 6:22 of playing time in the third quarter against Illinois State at the ARC.
- Maya Dunson had 11 points in the fourth quarter versus Indiana State at the ARC.
Second Half Scoring
- Remarkably, three different Valpo players have scored 14 or more points in a game this season after entering halftime scoreless.
- Jayda Johnston dropped 14 points in the second half against Illinois State after being held without a first-half point.
- Maya Dunson scored 14 second-half points against Indiana State and Ava Interrante went for 15 in the second half at Western Illinois following scoreless first halves.
Improvement on the Glass
- This year’s Valpo team has been the best in terms of rebounding margin in the tenure of head coach Mary Evans, and the Beacons have been even better within conference play.
- In their eight nonconference games, the Beacons were a -5.3 in rebounding margin and surrendered 5.9 more offensive rebounds per game than they grabbed.
- But within MVC play, Valpo has been just -4.0 in rebounding margin and has surrendered just 2.6 more offensive rebounds per game than it has tallied.
- The win over Missouri State was especially notable - Valpo enjoyed a 28-23 advantage on the glass, a +5 edge that came against a Missouri State team which outrebounded the Beacons by a combined 36 boards in last season’s two matchups, and which had enjoyed a double-figure rebounding advantage in each of its last four games.
- The Lady Bears’ 23 rebounds were their lowest total since Feb. 11, 2018.
- Valpo held a 35-29 edge on the glass in the win at Indiana State - the Beacons outrebounded the Sycamores, who hold a positive rebounding margin on the season, by six in both matchups this year.
Setting Career Bests
- With Emma Tecca’s 12-point effort against UNI, tying her career best set while she was at Akron, all 11 active Beacons have set or matched their career high in the scoring column this season.
2/12 vs. UNI - Emma Tecca (12)
1/29 vs. Bradley - Olivia Brown (24)
1/24 vs. Missouri State - Ilysse Pitts (24)
1/7 vs. Indiana State - Maya Dunson (14)
12/9 at Western Illinois - Jayda Johnston (16), Ava Interrante (15)
11/21 vs. UAB - Ali Saunders (32), Olivia Sims (12 [tied twice more])
11/12 vs. Southern Miss - Ella Van Weelden (9)
11/7 at Central Michigan - Leah Earnest (20), Katie Beyer (11)
- Valpo lost both regular season matchups against UIC by a combined total of three points - a one-point loss in Chicago and a two-point loss at the ARC.
- It is the first time in program history Valpo has lost two games in the same season to the same opponent by a combined three or fewer points.
- Valpo’s loss at UIC on Josie Filer’s 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining was its second last-second defeat this season.
- The Beacons fell in overtime to UAB on Nov. 21 when the Blazers’ Maria Roters hit a layup with 3.3 seconds to play in the extra period.
- Prior to the UAB game, Valpo had not lost a game by a single possession since another heartbreaking defeat - a 74-73 loss to #25 Missouri State on Jan. 31, 2021 on three free throws with 0.8 seconds left.
- This year is the first time Valpo has lost multiple games on a last-second shot (inside the final five seconds) since 2010-11 - that year’s squad fell 69-67 at Evansville on a layup with 1.1 seconds remaining and 70-69 at Milwaukee on a jumper in the paint with 4.9 seconds to play.
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.