Using one of the most prolific 3-point shooting games in program history, the Valpo women’s basketball team nearly took down MVC co-regular season champion Belmont at the ARC Saturday afternoon, but the visiting Bruins edged ahead late to earn a 70-67 victory over the Beacons. Valpo celebrated Senior Day on Saturday, honoring Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) and Maya Dunson (Dayton, Ohio/Wayne [Loyola]) as they played the final home game of their collegiate careers.
How It Happened
- Sophomore Olivia Sims (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy [Oakland]) set the tone early on, hitting a pair of 3-pointers as she scored eight points in the first 4:19 of the game. Redshirt junior Emma Tecca (Tallmadge, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban [Akron]) also connected on a triple in the opening stretch as Valpo took an early 11-4 lead.
- Belmont scored six in a row to move within one point, but the Beacons ended the quarter by scoring 12 out of 16 points in the last three minutes of the period. Pitts and senior Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) both hit 3-pointers in that span, while freshman Ali Saunders (Depauw, Ind./North Harrison) hit consecutive shots from deep on Valpo’s last two possessions of the quarter to put the Beacons ahead 23-14 at the end of the period.
- After hitting seven 3-pointers and zero 2-pointers as a team in the opening quarter, the Beacons got a pair of early drives and finishes from Brown to start off the second period, and when Saunders hit again from downtown, Belmont was forced to use a timeout with 7:40 to play in the first half, trailing 30-17.
- Valpo was able to score just four points the remainder of the opening half as the Bruins went on a 13-4 run following their stoppage to cut the Beacon edge to 34-30 at intermission.
- It was a third quarter of back-and-forth stretches. Dunson and Pitts knocked down 3-pointers in the first 2:32 of the second half to help push the lead back up to eight points, but the Bruins cut the lead back down to two with 3:28 to play in the quarter.
- A second-chance basket from junior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) and a 3-pointer by Brown bumped the lead right back to seven points at 47-40 with 2:38 to play in the period. Belmont scored the final six points of the quarter, however, to close to within 47-46 with 10 minutes to play.
- Destinee Wells scored for Belmont on its first possession of the fourth quarter, giving the Bruins their first lead since early in the first quarter and setting the stage for a fourth quarter which eventually featured seven lead changes and four ties.
- Belmont held a 51-49 lead, but Saunders scored four straight points in the span of 38 seconds to put Valpo in front, 53-51, with 7:06 to play.
- The Bruins scored the next five points to regain the lead before Earnest hit a triple with 5:01 remaining to tie the game. Two possessions later, Brown hit from deep once again, giving Valpo a 61-60 lead with 3:34 to play.
- Wells scored back-to-back baskets for Belmont, but again, Brown was up to the challenge, knocking down yet another 3-pointer with 1:46 to play to tie the game at 64-64.
- Wells followed with another bucket for the Bruins, one which turned out to give them the lead for good, with 1:24 to play. Following turnovers on both sides, Valpo missed a 3-point attempt which would have regained the lead and the Beacons were forced to foul, trailing by two with the shot clock off.
- Wells capped a 20-point fourth quarter with a pair of free throws, but the Beacons weren’t done yet, as Brown drained another 3-pointer with 16.0 seconds remaining to bring Valpo within 68-67. After a Valpo foul, though, Bradley hit two more free throws and the Beacons’ last-second 3-point attempt to tie the game was off the mark.
Inside the Game
- Valpo went 15-of-32 from 3-point range, easily a season high for 3-pointers made and its second-best 3-point percentage (46.9%) of the year.
- The 15 triples are tied for fourth-most in a single game in program history.
- It was the first time Valpo hit 15-plus triples in a game since connecting on 15 3’s on Feb. 27, 2021 at Southern Illinois.
- Brown led the attack from downtown, hitting 5-of-8 from 3-point range on her way to a team-best 19 points. The senior went 11-of-16 from deep in Valpo’s pair of games against Belmont this season.
- All seven Beacons who attempted a triple connected at least once from deep. Saunders was next up, as she went 3-of-6 from 3-point range on her way to 13 points. The freshman also tied her season high with a game-best six assists.
- Sims hit on both her 3-point attempts as she finished with eight points.
- Pitts was good on a pair of 3-pointers as well for six points. Celebrating her Senior Day and taking the court in the Brown and Gold for the 110th time, Pitts also tallied six rebounds and handed out four assists before fouling out late.
- Dunson matched a pair of career highs in her final appearance at the ARC, posting seven rebounds and three assists to go with seven points.
- Earnest narrowly missed out on her ninth double-double of the campaign, finishing with nine points and a game-best nine rebounds.
- Led by Earnest, Dunson and Pitts, the Beacons outrebounded the Bruins on Saturday, 30-29. This comes after Belmont held a +9 advantage on the glass in the first meeting of the season.
- Pitts’ and Saunders’ distribution of the basketball helped Valpo record a season-high 20 assists on 24 made baskets.
- Wells scored 26 of her game-high 31 points after halftime for Belmont, which narrowly outshot Valpo from the field, 43.1%-42.9%. The Bruins, who entered the game 68.8% foul shooters on the season, were 22-of-25 (88.0%) from the foul line versus Valpo’s 4-of-6 afternoon at the charity stripe. The 19-attempt differential at the foul line was a season worst for the Beacons.
Postgame Press Conference With Head Coach Mary Evans
Valpo (7-22, 5-15) will be the 11 seed for Hoops in the Heartland next week and will face sixth-seeded UIC in its opening game of the tournament on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. from Moline, Ill. The game can be seen live on ESPN+.