The Valpo women’s basketball team put together its best defensive performance of the young season Tuesday night against a Southern Miss team which entered the game averaging better than 85 points per game, but the Beacons were unable to overcome a first-quarter deficit as the Lady Eagles defended their home court, 61-49.
How It Happened
- Southern Miss jumped on top from the start Tuesday, scoring six points over its first three possessions.
- Fifth-year guard Jill Harris (Navarre, Fla./Crestview [Johnson C. Smith]) knocked down a pair of early 3-pointers to have Valpo within 10-6 4:15 into the game. But the Lady Eagles outscored the Beacons 11-2 over the remainder of the first quarter to lead 21-8 at the end of the period.
- Southern Miss scored a pair of baskets from the field in the first 81 seconds of the second quarter, extending its lead to 25-9. The Beacons stepped up the defensive intensity to close the first half from that point, limiting the Lady Eagles to just three free throws as they went 0-for-9 from the field and committed nine turnovers in the final 8:39 of the half.
- Following Southern Miss’ second basket of the quarter, senior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) connected on a 3-pointer to kick off the 12-3 stretch to close the half. Earnest scored eight of the points in the quarter as Valpo closed to within 28-21 at intermission.
- The Beacons got to as close as five points in the third quarter, as early as 1:27 into the period on a driving layup from fifth-year guard Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) which made it 30-25.
- It was still just a five-point deficit at 36-31 with 4:09 to play in the period after an Earnest layup before the Lady Eagles closed the quarter on a 12-4 run to lead 48-35 with 10 minutes to play.
- Valpo was unable to get any closer than the final margin in the fourth quarter.
Inside the Game
- Southern Miss, which is the defending Sun Belt regular season champion, entered Tuesday’s game averaging 85.3 points/game through their first three games, but Valpo limited the Lady Eagles to 61 points.
- It was the lowest point total by a Valpo opponent since limiting Indiana State to 47 points in the 54-47 road win over the Sycamores on Feb. 17 last season.
- The Beacons held the Lady Eagles to 37.0% overall shooting from the field, 28.6% from the 3-point line and forced 19 turnovers.
- However, Valpo struggled to score on Tuesday, hitting just 27.3% from the floor and 20.0% from the 3-point line. The Beacons were 14-of-17 (82.4%) from the foul line.
- Harris made it three straight games to start her Valpo career scoring in double figures, leading the way with 14 points to tie her career best.
- Brown scored all 13 of her points in the second half, including 7-of-7 from the foul line.
- Earnest tallied 12 points and pulled down a game-best 12 rebounds to register her first double-double of the season.
- Senior Ava Interrante (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) added six points off the bench.
- Freshman Nevaeh Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) made her first collegiate start on Tuesday and grabbed six defensive rebounds.
Thoughts From Head Coach Mary Evans
“I liked our defensive effort over the last three quarters tonight. We collectively did a good job guarding them, and I think we did a great job rebounding the ball. Leah was tremendous on the defensive glass, and Nevaeh gave us a good lift there as well. Everyone battled on the boards, got into people and boxed out. It was a great defensive effort — we still had too many breakdowns, but we flew around the floor as a team, hustled and got on the floor for loose balls more than I’ve seen this season — the heart and effort were really there tonight.”
“Offensively, we didn’t come out and execute offensively well in the first quarter. I thought the rest of the night, we ran good offense — we just didn’t have a night where we shot the ball well. We have to more consistently make shots when we get good looks.”
“We’re going to take full advantage of spending this time together as a team on this trip over the next few days. We’re heading to Birmingham tomorrow, where we will participate in community service working in a food bank. This time of year, it’s important to take some time to think of others who are less fortunate and reflect on how fortunate we are to have the opportunities and gifts we have. We’ve got a team building activity planned, where we hope our team will grow — we’ve got a lot of natural leaders on this team, and we need to find ways to be better followers sometimes, so we want to put them in situations where we see which of those leaders actively come to the top to lead and which of those players will allow themselves to be led. We’ll then spend a fun Thanksgiving together — cook some food, have some fellowship and spend some intentional time growing our off-court relationships.”
Valpo (0-3) returns to the hardwood Saturday afternoon at UAB for a noon tip. The game can be seen live on ESPN+.