Valparaiso (0-5, 0-0 MVC)
Game #6 - December 3, 2023 - 1 p.m. CT
at Purdue (4-3, 0-0 Big Ten)
Mackey Arena (14,222) - West Lafayette, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team wraps up a stretch of four consecutive road games with a Sunday afternoon matinee at Big Ten foe Purdue.
Previously: Valpo looked poised to claim its first victory of the season Wednesday evening in Kalamazoo, Mich., but Western Michigan’s Kaiden Glenn banked in a 3-pointer as time expired in regulation to force overtime and the Broncos went on to emerge 75-71 victors. Leah Earnest had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Beacons, while Olivia Brown contributed 16 points.
Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: BTN+
Valpo Radio: None
Links for live coverage: Available via ValpoAthletics.com
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 55-96. 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: Valpo and Purdue match up for the 17th time in program history on Sunday, with the Boilermakers owning a 14-2 advantage in the series. Valpo has won two of the last three matchups, however, including a victory at Mackey Arena in the last meeting - 52-47 on Dec. 6, 2020. Grace White paced Valpo with 20 points and eight rebounds in that contest, while Leah Earnest - the only member of this year’s team who appeared in that game - chipped in two points and six rebounds in 18 minutes of action off the bench.
- 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.
...at Western Michigan
- WMU led 18-17 at the end of the first quarter, but Valpo pulled ahead 24-18 at intermission.
- The Broncos used a 12-0 run to lead by as many as six in the third quarter, and WMU was ahead 46-45 with 10 minutes to play.
- WMU extended its lead to as many as eight points early in the fourth quarter, but Valpo rallied to retake the lead with 4:24 to play.
- The Broncos were back in front 64-60 with 2:40 to go before six straight for the Beacons - capped by a 3-pointer from Nevaeh Jackson - gave them a 66-64 lead with 1:39 to play.
- It was still 66-64 Valpo when Ava Interrante took a charge with four seconds remaining. The Beacons split a pair of free throws after an immediate foul on the inbounds to make it a 3-point game, but WMU’s Kaiden Glenn banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.
- Valpo never led in overtime, as its only field goal came on a triple by Olivia Brown with 2:06 to play which tied the game at 70-70. The Beacons had three possessions in the final 90 seconds with a chance to tie or take the lead, but they went 0-for-3 from the floor and committed a pair of turnovers on those possessions.
- The Beacons hit at a season-best clip from inside the arc, going 23-of-41 (56.1%) from 2-point range as they enjoyed a 46-28 edge in points in the paint. They were just 4-of-16 from 3-point range, however.
- Meanwhile, Valpo limited WMU to 38.7% shooting from the field, but the Broncos hit 10-of-23 from 3-point range.
- Leah Earnest paced Valpo with 22 points and added a game-high 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the year.
- Valpo trailed 21-18 at the end of the first quarter and 40-36 at halftime.
- UAB opened the third quarter on a 15-2 run to extend out to a 55-38 lead.
- The Beacons came back with a 17-3 run spanning the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarters. Leah Earnest had 12 of Valpo’s 17 points during that spurt, which brought the Beacons back to within 58-55 with 7:05 remaining.
- The Blazers scored the next eight points, however, and Valpo got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
- Earnest poured in 26 points to easily surpass her previous career best of 20 points, set in last year’s season opener at Central Michigan.
- For the second time this season, a bushelful of Valpo steals contributed to a high turnover total for its opponent. The Beacons racked up 16 steals on Saturday, led by Saniya Jackson’s eight thefts, while the Blazers committed 23 turnovers in all — leading to 22 points off turnovers.
- UAB shot 59.6% from the field, however, to Valpo’s 39.3% clip. The Beacons did have the advantage behind the 3-point line, hitting 9-of-25 (36%) from downtown while UAB was just 4-of-14 (28.6%) from deep.
- The Beacons return to the ARC for an exhibition game against IU Northwest Dec. 7 before taking on Chicago State Dec. 9.
- Valpo will be off for 10 days following the matchup with the Cougars to allow for final exams.
...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 0-4 away from home so far this year and posted a 4-10 record in true road games last season.
- The Boilermakers enter Sunday’s game at 4-3 overall following a 67-59 win at Dayton on Friday night, their second consecutive victory.
- Abbey Ellis is averaging a team-high 15.6 points/game.
- Caitlyn Harper and Madison Layden are both averaging 10.3 points/game as well, the latter doing so while hitting at a 50% clip from the 3-point line.
Facing the B1G
- Mary Evans has not been shy about having her team take on Big Ten opponents since taking the helm of the Valpo program prior to the 2018-19 season.
- Sunday’s game at Purdue means that Valpo has taken on at least one Big Ten opponent in each of Evans’ six years at the helm of the program.
- Counting this season’s games, the Beacons will have faced 10 Big Ten opponents in Evans’ six seasons - Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin twice apiece, as well as Ohio State and Michigan State once each.
- Back in 2020-21, Valpo claimed a pair of Big Ten road wins with victories at Illinois and at Purdue, and came within an overtime decision of winning at Wisconsin that season as well.
Career Days for Earnest
- Heading into Valpo’s Nov. 25 game at UAB, senior Leah Earnest had a career high in the scoring column of 20 points.
- Earnest has outdone that previous mark in each of her the last two games.
- She smashed her previous career best at UAB, pouring in 26 points, including matching her career high with three 3-pointers.
- 12 of Earnest’s points against the Blazers came during a 17-3 Valpo run spanning the third and fourth quarters, which cut a 17-point deficit to three points.
- Then, last time out at Western Michigan, Earnest scored 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting, setting a career best for field goals made. She also grabbed 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the year.
- Earnest has scored in double figures in each of Valpo’s first five games of the season and is averaging 16.6 points/game, tied for fifth in the Valley. She also is averaging 8.4 rebounds/game, fifth among Valley players, and is one of three players who ranks among the MVC’s top-five in both scoring and rebounding.
I’ll Take That
- Twice in the season’s first four games, the Beacons had a player rack up eight steals in a game.
- At UAB, it was freshman Saniya Jackson coming off the bench to tally eight thefts - one in the first quarter, three in the second quarter and four in the fourth quarter.
- Jackson matched the feat of fellow rookie Raeven Raye-Redmond, who posted eight steals of her own in her collegiate debut against Western Illinois Nov. 18.
- Jackson and Raye-Redmond are two of just 15 D-I players nationally to record eight or more steals in a single game so far this season.
- The duo are now tied for second on Valpo’s single-game steals chart, just one off the program single-game record.
- Prior to this year, the last Valpo player to tally eight steals in a game was Jeanette Gray against Houston in the 2002 WNIT.
- Raye-Redmond was 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 Nov. 18 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.
- At UAB, paced by Jackson’s eight steals, Valpo racked up 16 team steals.
- Seven different players picked up at least one theft, with Olivia Brown setting her best mark in the Valpo uniform with a three-steal afternoon.
- Last time out at Western Michigan, the Beacons tallied 10 steals for their third double-digit performance in the season’s first five games. They currently rank 26th nationally, averaging 11.8 steals/game.
Approaching a Milestone
- Fifth-year guard Olivia Brown is approaching the 1,000-point milestone for her collegiate career.
- Brown scored a season-best 16 points last time out at Western Michigan, giving her 968 career points.
- In her third season at Valpo, Brown has scored 602 of those points in the Valpo uniform.
- Brown’s .397 career 3-point percentage at Valpo ranks third in program history.
Prolific in the Paint
- For those in tune with Valpo’s offensive scheme, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the Beacons’ 2-point field goals come from inside the paint.
- So far this season, however, it has been even more pronounced.
- Through five games, Valpo has made 74 2-point field goals - 73 of which have been registered as field goals in the paint.
- The lone exception was a Leah Earnest shot at Eastern Illinois which was input as being shot from the block on the edge of the lane line.
- Last time out at Western Michigan, the Beacons enjoyed their most prolific game inside the arc to date this season, as they went 23-for-41 (.561) on 2-point attempts.
- 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.
- Jackson went on to start at Southern Miss, the earliest a true freshman has started in her Valpo career since 2017-18.
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 versus Western Illinois, playing eight minutes and recording one point and two rebounds.
- After playing their home opener against Western Illinois, the Beacons are in a stretch of becoming intimately familar with the road over the next couple months.
- Valpo is in the midst of playing nine games in a 10-game stretch away from home.
- Sunday’s game at Purdue is the last of four consecutive 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.
- 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.