Valparaiso (0-2, 0-0 MVC)
Game #3 - November 21, 2023 - 6 p.m.
at Southern Miss (3-0, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Reed Green Coliseum (8,097) - Hattiesburg, Miss.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The road is about to be the Valpo women’s basketball team’s friend, as the Beacons play nine of their next 10 games away from home, starting on Tuesday at Southern Miss.
Previously: Freshman Raeven Raye-Redmond made an immediate impact in her collegiate debut Saturday at the ARC, recording one of the most prolific single-game steal totals in program history as she racked up eight steals, but visiting Western Illinois came away with a 76-54 victory over Valpo. The Beacons totaled 18 steals as a team in the defeat.
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Head Coach Mary Evans: Mary Evans is in her sixth year at the helm of the program in 2022-23 and owns a record of 55-93. 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. The 2022-23 season saw Evans lead Valpo to the first win in program history over perennial MVC power Missouri State. The Beacons also won three consecutive road games in Valley play, the first time the program accomplished that feat against three different opponents since 2007.
Series Notes: Tuesday is just the second matchup all-time between the two programs, as they first met last season at the ARC in mid-November. That meeting saw the Beacons come away with a 72-65 victory, as they hit a number of clutch fourth-quarter shots to keep the Lady Eagles at bay. Olivia Brown scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in the win, while Leah Earnest recorded 12 points (6-10 FG) and eight rebounds.
- Valpo was picked to finish in 10th place in the MVC preseason poll, totaling 162 points, coming in ahead of Evansville and Bradley.
- Valpo is in its seventh season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Valley was ranked 13th in conference NET last season. The MVC ranked 10th in conference NET in 2021-22, seventh in conference NET in 2020-21 and was eighth in conference RPI in 2019-20.
...looking back at last year
- Valpo finished last season with a 7-23 overall record and finished at 5-15 in MVC play, good for 11th in the Valley standings.
- The Beacons earned their first win in program history over perennial MVC power Missouri State.
- Valpo also won three consecutive road games in Valley play, the first time the program accomplished that feat against three different opponents since 2007.
- Ali Saunders was named to the MVC All-Freshman Team.
...versus Western Illinois
- It was an early defensive struggle, as the score was tied 4-4 past the halfway mark of the first period before Western Illinois went on an 11-2 run to grab a lead it never relinquished.
- The Leathernecks’ lead was 21-11 at the end of the opening quarter, and they scored 10 of the final 12 points of the second period to lead 44-25 at halftime.
- A strong offensive third quarter on both sides (23-21) and a strong defensive fourth quarter on both sides (9-8) both fell in favor of WIU, resulting in the final margin.
- Freshman Raeven Raye-Redmond enjoyed a debut to remember Saturday. The rookie was called upon midway through the second quarter and played 23 of the game’s final 25 minutes, scoring nine points on 4-of-7 shooting.
- But of course, it was her output on the defensive end of the floor which was most eye-popping, as Raye-Redmond recorded three steals in the second quarter, three in the third quarter and two in the fourth quarter to finish with eight steals.
- Raye-Redmond was responsible for nearly half of the Beacons’ steals as a team on Saturday, as Valpo notched 18 steals — the program’s best single-game mark since tallying 21 steals at Evansville on Jan. 12, 2020.
- Senior Leah Earnest had three of those steals and recorded four assists and two blocked shots as well, all three marks matching her career bests in the respective categories. Earnest also scored in double figures for a second straight game, finishing with 10 points.
- Jill Harris scored a team-best 13 points, one off her career high, as she made it back-to-back games with double-figure scoring efforts to open her Beacon career. Harris knocked down 3-of-4 from the 3-point line, tying her career high for triples made in a game.
- Valpo finished the game shooting just 39.1% from the field and was just 5-of-20 from 3-point range, while WIU hit at a 48.1% clip from the floor and went 9-of-18 from deep.
...at Eastern Illinois
- An 11-0 first-quarter run for the Beacons gave them a double-digit lead late in the opening period, and Valpo earned its largest lead at 22-11 early in the second quarter.
- EIU cut into the Valpo lead as the second quarter went along, but the Beacons were still up at halftime, 34-31.
- The Panthers took advantage of Valpo hitting just 3-of-13 from the field in the third quarter, outscoring the Beacons by eight to take a 49-44 lead with 10 minutes to play.
- Valpo erased that lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter, and the game was still tied 51-51 with 7:24 to play before EIU reeled off 10 straight points. The Beacons got to within four at 64-60 with two minutes remaining, but could get no closer.
- The game came against an Eastern Illinois team which posted a 21-8 record last season and finished in second place in the OVC.
- Leah Earnest paced the offense with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting while pulling down a game-high nine rebounds and setting a career high with four assists.
- In her first game at Valpo, Jill Harris delivered 12 points — just two off her career best — and three assists.
- Making her collegiate debut, Nevaeh Jackson connected on three triples as part of an 11-point, three-rebound afternoon.
- Valpo held a 23-8 advantage in bench points over EIU, but the Panthers held a 46-24 advantage in points in the paint.
- The Beacons close this extended road trip on Saturday afternoon with a game at UAB.
- Valpo then returns to the Midwest, where it steps back on the court next Wednesday at Western Michigan.
...on the road
- Valpo will play 17 games away from home in the 2023-24 regular season, 16 of which will be true road games.
- The Beacons are 0-1 away from home so far this year and posted a 4-10 record in true road games last season.
- The Lady Eagles bring a perfect 3-0 record into Tuesday’s game, most recently winning at North Alabama on Saturday.
- Southern Miss finished last season with a 21-10 record and shared the Sun Belt regular season title in its first season as a conference member.
- Through three games this year, Domonique Davis is pacing the Lady Eagles with 21.7 points/game on 64.1% shooting from the field and 4.3 assists/game.
- Freshman Raeven Raye-Redmond had a collegiate debut to remember on Saturday against Western Illinois, as she racked up an impressive eight steals.
- Raye-Redmond’s eight steals are tied for second-most in a single game in program history, just one off the team single-game record.
- Prior to Saturday, the last Valpo player to tally eight steals in a game was Jeanette Gray against Houston in the 2002 WNIT.
- Raye-Redmond is the first MVC player to record eight steals in a game since UNI’s Ellie Herzberg did so against Indiana State on Feb. 19, 2017.
Stealing It All
- Led by Raye-Redmond’s eight steals, Valpo tallied 18 total team steals last time out against Western Illinois.
- Leah Earnest (3) and Saniya Jackson (2) also registered multiple thefts, as eight Beacons in all recorded at least one steal.
- The 18 steals is the program’s best single-game mark since tallying 21 steals at Evansville on Jan. 12, 2020, and is tied for the second-highest output in Evans’ tenure as head coach.
Another Strong Debut
- Raye-Redmond’s effort against WIU was the second straight strong collegiate debut by a Valpo player, as freshman Nevaeh Jackson enjoyed a nice start to her collegiate career in the season opener at Eastern Illinois.
- Jackson played 22 minutes off the bench at EIU, going 4-of-8 from the field - including 3-of-6 from 3-point range - for 11 points while also adding three rebounds and two assists.
- The 11 points is the best mark for a Valpo freshman in their first collegiate game since Bryce Blood scored 13 against IU Kokomo in the 2017-18 season opener.
- It is the best mark for a freshman in their first collegiate game against a D-I program since Dani Franklin kicked off her stellar career with 14 points in a win over Butler to start the 2014-15 season.
The First Time
- Jackson was one of four Valpo players to take the floor in the Beacon uniform for the first time in the season opener at EIU.
- Twin sister Saniya Jackson made her collegiate debut and scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in 18 minutes off the bench.
- Freshman Kayla Preston made her mark on the glass, needing just 11 minutes to pull down five boards - tied for second-most on the team - while also scoring five points.
- Fifth-year Jill Harris began her first season at Valpo in the starting lineup, playing a team-high 33 minutes and finishing with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.
- Six Beacons in all have made their Valpo debuts this season, with freshman Layla Gold also making her collegiate debut last time out versus Western Illinois, playing eight minutes and recording one point and two rebounds.
Filling the Stat Sheet
- Senior Leah Earnest made an impact across the entirety of the box in the season opener at EIU.
- Earnest led the Beacons with 13 points, tied for game-high honors with nine rebounds and handed out a team-best four assists.
- One season after tallying eight double-doubles, Earnest came up just one board shy of a season-opening double-double this year.
- It is the first time a Valpo player has at least tied for team-high honors in all three categories since last season’s home win over Bradley on Jan. 29 - that game featured 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists by Earnest.
- It is the first time a Valpo player has outright paced the team in all three categories since Shay Frederick posted 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists on Feb. 4, 2021 in a win over Bradley.
Hitting From Downtown
- Valpo was on point from behind the 3-point line in the season opener at Eastern Illinois.
- The Beacons shot 10-of-24 (.417) from distance, with seven different players connecting on at least one triple.
- Last season, Valpo hit 10+ 3-pointers in a game six times and had six nights where it hit at a 40% clip or better from deep.
- Of course, under head coach Mary Evans, the 3-ball has become an integral part of the offensive strategy. Evans’ first five seasons have featured five of the seven highest single season totals for 3-pointers made in program history, while the team has averaged 8.3 triples/game in her five years.
- After playing their home opener last Saturday against Western Illinois, the Beacons will become intimately familar with the road over the next couple months.
- Valpo will play nine of its next 10 games away from home.
- Tuesday’s game at Southern Miss starts a stretch of four straight true road games. Then, after hosting Chicago State Dec. 9, the Beacons play five more in a row away from home - including their first three games of the MVC slate.
Easing Into the Season
- With such a big group of newcomers joining the program this year, head coach Mary Evans opted to ease into the 2023-24 season and not jump straight into game action.
- Every D-I team in the nation had played at least two games by the end of the day Thursday, Nov. 16 except for Valpo, which played its second game two days later.
- Valpo’s season opener came on the seventh day of the D-I season, as Monday, Nov. 6 was opening day of the regular season.
- Kent State is the only D-I program which tipped off its first game later than Valpo’s opener.
- Only four teams will play their respective third game of the season later than Valpo’s Tuesday night game at Southern Miss.
- The Beacons return the majority of production from last year’s squad.
- Three of Valpo’s top four scorers from the 2022-23 season are back for the 2023-24 campaign.
- In all, Valpo returns 64.7% of its minutes played, 66.4% of its scoring and 72.1% of its rebounding from the 2022-23 team.
- This year’s squad features eight returnees from last year’s team.
- Headlining Valpo’s returnees is fifth-year guard Olivia Brown. The Beacons’ leading scorer last year at 12.0 points/game, Brown was one of the Valley’s top shooters, ranking third in the conference in 3-point percentage and sixth in 3-pointers/game.
- Brown enters the 2023-24 campaign just 75 points away from hitting 1,000 points for her collegiate career.
- Senior forward Leah Earnest took a leap forward last season, averaging 9.8 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game — the latter mark good for sixth in the Valley. Earnest was especially proficient on the defensive glass, with a defensive rebounding rate of 28.3% — 13th-best nationally among players with at least 100 defensive boards.
- Junior Olivia Sims was Valpo’s fourth-leading scorer last year, averaging 5.0 points/game.
- Senior Ava Interrante (4.1 ppg, 29 steals), senior Jayda Johnston (3.8 ppg), redshirt senior Emma Tecca (3.0 ppg), junior Katie Beyer (2.0 ppg) and redshirt sophomore Ella Van Weelden (1.6 ppg) all return as well for the 2023-24 season.
- Nearly half the Valpo roster is new to the program this season, with the vast majority of those newcomers true freshmen.
- The lone incoming transfer was fifth-year point guard Jill Harris. Harris most recently played one season at Johnson C. Smith. She was a SoCon All-Freshman Team selection as a rookie at Mercer in 2019-20 and helped the Bears to the NCAA Tournament in 2020-21.
- Valpo welcomes its first Indiana All-Star to the program since 2017, as Indianapolis native Layla Gold earned the prestigious honor last season.
- Gold is one of four All-State high school players new to the roster this season. Twins Nevaeh and Saniya Jackson, out of Northrop [Ind.] H.S., were both First Team All-State selections as seniors, while Raeven Raye-Redmond earned Second Team All-State honors out of Trotwood Madison [Ohio] H.S.
- Kayla Preston joins the Beacons as a true freshman as well after helping lead Millard North [Neb.] H.S. to a state semifinal appearance as a senior.