March 09, 20231st2nd3rd4thFinal
Stats at a GlanceVALPOUIC
FG Percentage.378 (14-37) .466 (27-58)
3P FG Percentage.231 (3-13) .235 (4-17)
FT Percentage.696 (16-23) .583 (14-24)
Offensive Rebounds013
Defensive Rebounds2122
Total Rebounds2135
Bench Points2225
PointsTecca - 11
Filer - 22
ReboundsEarnest - 6
Filer - 8
AssistsEarnest - 2
Jackson - 4
StealsTecca - 2
Young - 2
BlocksTecca - 2
Jackson - 1
Women's Basketball Ready for Hoops in the Heartland
Monday, March 6, 2023
Women's Basketball Ready for Hoops in the Heartland

Valparaiso (7-22, 5-15 MVC)
Hoops in the Heartland - First Round
Game #30 - March 9, 2023 - 8:30 p.m.
vs. UIC (17-14, 9-11 MVC)
Vibrant Arena at The MARK (12,000) - Moline, Ill.

Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team heads to Hoops in the Heartland in Moline, Ill. as the 11th seed for the MVC Tournament. The Beacons will have to win four games in four days to claim the tournament championship, starting on Thursday evening against sixth-seeded UIC.

Previously: 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 and Maya Dunson as they played the final home game of their collegiate careers.

Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN+ - Brad Wells and Kelly Burke
Radio: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso)
Streaming Audio: TuneIn app
Links for live coverage: Available via

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 55-90. 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: Valpo renews acquaintances with the most common opponent in program history on Thursday night, as the Beacons match up with UIC for the 53rd time - the Flames hold a slim 28-24 edge in the series. The MVC marks the fourth different conference the two programs have shared affiliation in, as Valpo and UIC were both previously together in the North Star Conference (1988-92), the Mid-Continent Conference (1992-94) and the Horizon League (2007-17).

UIC earned a pair of narrow victories in this season’s two matchups, edging Valpo 51-50 in Chicago on Jan. 11 and 55-53 in Valparaiso on Feb. 1.

This will be the fifth time the two programs have met in conference tournament play:
- 3/7/91 - North Star - Valpo 81, UIC 73
- 3/11/93 - Mid-Con - UIC 101, Valpo 100
- 3/10/94 - Mid-Con - UIC 65, Valpo 62
- 3/11/13 - Horizon - Valpo 67, UIC 57

...and @ValleyHoops
- 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.

...versus Belmont
- Valpo connected on seven 3-pointers in the game’s opening 10 minutes to lead 23-14 at the end of the first quarter.
- The Beacons got their lead up to 13 points at 30-17 before Belmont went on a 13-4 run over the final seven minutes of the half, cutting Valpo’s edge to 34-30 at intermission.
- A back-and-forth third quarter saw the Bruins score the final six points of the quarter, cutting Valpo’s lead to 47-46 with 10 minutes to play.
- The fourth quarter featured four ties and seven lead changes, with neither team holding more than a four-point lead at any point in the period.
- A 3-pointer from Olivia Brown with 3:34 to play gave Valpo a 61-60 lead, and after two Belmont baskets, Brown hit from deep again to tie the game, 64-64, with 1:46 remaining.
- Destinee Wells gave BU the lead for good with 1:24 to play. Brown hit one final 3-pointer with 16.0 seconds to go to bring Valpo back within 68-67, but Belmont hit both its ensuing free throws and the Beacons’ last-second tying effort was off the mark.
- Olivia 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. Ali 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.
- Led by Leah Earnest (9 boards), Dunson (7) and Pitts (6), 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.
- Saunders’ and Pitts’ (4 assists) distribution of the basketball helped Valpo record a season-high 20 assists on 24 made baskets.

...versus Murray State
- Valpo shot just 26.1% from the field in the opening half as the Racers led from the jump. An 8-0 MSU run midway through the first quarter accounted for most of its 21-10 lead at the end of the opening period.
- The Racers led by as many as 21 points in the second quarter before entering halftime up 36-18.
- While the Murray State lead reached as many as 24 points in the third quarter, Olivia Brown helped Valpo keep pace by scoring 12 points in the third quarter alone, as the Racers’ lead was 60-40 with 10 minutes to play.
- Valpo opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 11 points, and after MSU pushed the lead back out to 17, the Beacons put together another spurt to get within 73-61 with 2:30 to play. But they would get no closer than that.
- After being held scoreless in the first half, Brown exploded for 12 points in the third quarter and 10 in the final period for a 22-point second half on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor, leading all players in the scoring column and coming just two points shy of her career best.
- Not to be outdone, Ali Saunders had a 20-point night on 8-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, as well. The freshman scored 10 points in each half en route to her second-highest scoring output of the season.
- It is the first time since Jan. 31, 2021 against Missouri State that Valpo has had two players finish with 20 or more points.
- Brown and Saunders were the only Beacons to finish in double figures, however, as Leah Earnest was next on the scoring list with seven points. The junior also paced Valpo with five rebounds.
- After shooting just 26.1% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, the Beacons rebounded to hit at a 59.3% clip in the final 20 minutes to finish at 44% for the game.
- Valpo’s 46 second-half points matched its second half against Southern Miss for the team’s highest-scoring half of the season.
- The Beacons also shot a season-best 92.9% (13-of-14) from the foul line.

...away from home
- Thursday marks the first neutral-site game of the year for Valpo.
- The Beacons were just 4-10 away from home in the regular season, but won three of their last four road games.

- UIC enters Hoops in the Heartland with a 17-14 overall record and went 9-11 in MVC play to earn the tournament’s sixth seed.
- The Flames alternated losses and wins over their final eight games of the regular season.
- Josie Filer led UIC in the regular season, averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while Jaida McCloud was right behind her at 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

A Look Back at the UIC Games
...51-50 loss at UIC, Jan. 11
- Valpo trailed 13-4 eight minutes into the contest, but held UIC scoreless for a stretch of over eight minutes in the second quarter to move to within 20-18 at halftime.
- The Beacons took their first lead of the game mere seconds into the second half and led 36-34 at the end of the third quarter.
- Valpo pushed its lead to 46-38 with 4:58 to play, but would not hit another field goal the rest of the way and went just 4-for-8 from the foul line in the final two minutes.
- UIC’s Josie Filer hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds to play.
- The Beacons held UIC to 39% shooting, while on the offensive end, Valpo hit at a 45.9% clip. At the foul line, however, the Beacons were just 11-of-22 to the Flames’ 12-of-18.
- Olivia Sims matched her career high in the scoring column, going 4-of-6 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line for 12 points.

...55-53 loss at Valpo, Feb. 1
- UIC went on a 17-5 run spanning the first and second quarters to pull out to a 27-13 lead with 6:15 to play in the first half.
- Valpo came back with a 9-2 run to close the half to pull to within 29-22 at intermission.
- The Beacons got as close as four points in the third quarter before UIC extended out to a 40-32 lead with 10 minutes to play.
- Valpo got to within one at 48-47 with 3:40 to play and had a shot to take the lead on its next possession, but was unable to convert, and UIC’s Tiana Jackson hit from deep to bump the Flames’ edge to 51-47 with 2:20 to go.
- The Beacons never had a shot to tie or take the lead after that point.
- Valpo shot 47.5% from the field while holding the Flames to 39.1% shooting. The Beacons were 8-of-19 from the 3-point line as well.
- The Beacons committed 22 turnovers in the loss while forcing just 13 UIC miscues. UIC ended the night with a 17-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
- Brown was the lone Valpo player to score in double figures, posting 16 points. The senior went 4-of-7 from the 3-point line.

Heartbreaking Losses
- 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.

Valpo in the Postseason
- Discounting the canceled 2020 MVC Tournament, Valpo has won a conference tournament game five of the last six years and in eight of the last 10 seasons.
- All three times Valpo has played on Thursday at Hoops in the Heartland, it has come away victorious - beating Evansville in 2021, Indiana State in 2019 and Loyola in 2018.
- Last year, the Beacons did not play until Friday in Moline, losing their quarterfinal game to UNI.

Third Time’s the Charm?
- The old adage is that it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, and while that might not be the case if there’s a wide disparity between the teams, for as tight as this season’s first two games between UIC and Valpo have been, the Beacons are hoping it is the case on Thursday.
- In fact, the last three times Valpo has faced a team in its first conference tournament game which it lost to twice in the regular season, Valpo has come away victorious.
- The 2018-19 team opened Hoops in the Heartland with a win over Indiana State after falling to the Sycamores in overtime and by eight points in two regular-season meetings.
- The 2015-16 squad took down Detroit in its Horizon League Tournament opener after losing by six and by 20 in the regular season, and the 2011-12 team opened its Horizon League Tournament with a win over Milwaukee, which it lost to by eight and by 19 in the regular season.

Improvement the Second Time Around
- Valpo saw improvement across the board from the first half of the league slate to the second half.
- Against the nine teams Valpo played twice, the Beacons were outscored 70.8-54.9 in the first matchups and 69.0-61.2 in the second matchups - an improvement of +8.1 points/game in scoring margin.
- Four of those nine rematches saw Valpo improve the margin by double digits from the first matchup to the second.
- In the first matchups, Valpo shot just 39.3% overall and 32.4% from 3-point range and improved to 43.4% and 35.4%, respectively, in the second matchups.
- Meanwhile, the first time around, opponents shot 48.1% overall and 40.1% from 3-point range, marks which the Valpo defense improved to 43.2% and 34.6%, repsective, the second time around.

3-Point Barrage
- Valpo enjoyed its most prolific performance from behind the 3-point line this season in its upset bid against Belmont on Saturday.
- The Beacons went 15-of-32 from 3-point range, easily a season high for 3-pointers made and their 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.
- All seven players who attempted at least one trifecta connected from deep at least once.
- The Beacons have made 217 3-pointers on the season on 664 attempts from deep, marks which rank seventh and tied for sixth, respectively, in program history. With seven more makes from downtown, Coach Evans’ five seasons at the helm would be the program’s five most prolific years from deep.

- Senior Olivia Brown will be hoping to carry her form from the last three halves of the regular season into Moline.
- After entering halftime scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting against Murray State, Brown exploded for 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the final 20 minutes.
- It was the highest-scoring half for a Valpo player since Meredith Hamlet scored 23 in the first half against IU Northwest on Dec. 15, 2017.
- Brown split her scoring pretty evenly between the two second-half quarters, posting 12 points in the third period and 10 in the fourth quarter. She is the first Valpo player to score in double digits in both quarters of a half since Shay Frederick did so in the third and fourth quarters against UNI on Jan. 8, 2021.
- Brown followed with a team-high 19 points on Saturday in the regular season finale against Belmont, going 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
- Within Valley play, Brown averaged 12.7 points/game on 51.5% shooting overall and 45.2% from 3-point range.
- She ranked second in both 3-point percentage and 3-pointers/game (2.4), while also ranking seventh in field goal percentage.
- Brown attempted 63.8% of her shots in MVC play from 3-point range, while the six players ahead of her on the field goal percentage chart combined to take just 11.3% of their total attempts from 3-point range.
- Brown’s .427 season 3-point percentage would rank eighth in a season in program history, while her current career 3-point clip of .416 at Valpo ranks second in program history.
- With 61 made 3-pointers this year, Brown is just three triples away from the program’s single-season top-10 in that category as well.

Earnest Doubles Up
- Junior Leah Earnest has been one of the Valley’s most effective rebounders this season, averaging 7.4 rebounds/game to enter Hoops in the Heartland ranked seventh in the conference.
- At 5’10”, Earnest is the shortest player among the top-10 in the MVC in rebounding average - the other nine players stand on average at 6’1 1/4”.
- She has posted nine double-figure rebounding performances this year and has paced the Beacons in boards 21 times.
- 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, who averages an even 10.0 points/game, has scored in double figures 17 times this season.
- Earnest has posted 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.

Playing Like a Veteran
- Valpo freshman guard Ali Saunders has been arguably the top freshman in the Valley this season.
- Saunders leads all MVC freshmen in scoring and assists, both overall (10.9 points/game, 81 assists) and in Valley-only play (10.7 points/game, 59 assists).
- Saunders has scored in double figures a team-high 18 times this season and dished out five or more assists five times.
- Her rookie season was highlighted by a 32-point effort in November against UAB - a new Valpo freshman record.
- Saunders posted the highest-scoring game by any Valpo player since Dani Franklin dropped 33 points against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 3, 2016.
- Saunders enjoyed a perfect shooting night in Valpo’s home game against UNI, scoring 19 points on 7-7 FG, 1-1 3PT, 4-4 FT.
- Saunders became 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, 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.
- Saunders nearly duplicated the feat in the win at Bradley, missing just a lone 3-point attempt on her way to sharing game-high honors with 17 points (6-7 FG; 2-3 3PT; 3-3 FT).
- Entering Hoops in the Heartland, Saunders is on pace to crack Valpo’s single-season top-10 charts in both 3-point percentage (.432, 6th) and free throw percentage (.848, 7th).

Second Half Scoring
- Remarkably, with Brown’s 22-point second half against Murray State, four 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 at the ARC against Illinois State after being held without a first-half point.
- Maya Dunson scored 14 second-half points in the home game against Indiana State.
- Ava Interrante went for 15 in the second half at Western Illinois following a scoreless first half.

Double-Digit Quarters
- Five different players have combined for 11 double-digit scoring periods this year following Brown’s 12-point third quarter and 10-point fourth quarter against Murray State.
- Brown became the second Valpo player with two double-digit periods in the same game, as Ali Saunders previously dropped 10 first-quarter points and 11 points in overtime against UAB.
- Brown owns a team-high five double-digit quarters this year, as she also scored 13 first-quarter points at home against Bradley, 11 points in the second quarter at Drake and 10 points in the fourth quarter against Western Michigan.
- Saunders has three double-digit periods, as she hit four fourth-quarter 3-pointers for 12 points in the home game against Drake.
- Emma Tecca, who entered the home game against UNI averaging less than a point per game, scored 10 of her career-high 12 points in the fourth quarter of that contest.
- Jayda 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.

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 nine 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 was just -4.3 in rebounding margin and surrendered just 2.7 more offensive rebounds per game than it 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 at home 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)