The Valpo women’s basketball team came up just short in a tight contest against Evansville Sunday at the ARC, as a second-chance basket inside the final 15 seconds proved critical in the Purple Aces coming away with a 71-68 win.
How It Happened
- Valpo never led in the first quarter, with Evansville holding a 14-10 lead at the end of the opening period.
- The Purple Aces’ lead reached as many as eight points early in the second quarter.
- Trailing by seven a couple minutes into the second period, the Beacons put together a 10-2 run — including five points from fifth-year Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) — to take their first lead at 24-23 with 5:43 to play in the half.
- The advantage flipped back and forth for the remainder of the half, with the Purple Aces taking a 34-31 lead into halftime.
- Valpo scored the first five points of the second half to take the lead, an edge which reached 40-36 with 6:12 to play in the third quarter when Saniya Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) hit Nevaeh Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) for a fast-break layup.
- UE responded by scoring on five straight possessions for an 11-2 run which returned the advantage to the Purple Aces.
- Evansville still led by four with less than a minute to play in the third quarter before Saniya Jackson converted a 3-point play and Brown hit a 3-pointer to give Valpo the 54-52 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
- Six straight points for the Purple Aces gave them a 60-56 edge with six minutes to play, and for the next three-plus minutes, it was a matter of the Evansville lead flipping between two and four points depending which team had the ball.
- Missed free throws by the Purple Aces gave Valpo a chance to tie things up, and senior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) did so from the foul line with 2:04 to play.
- Evansville retook the lead with a putback basket on its next possession, answered by Brown with a driving layup for the Beacons with 1:16 to play to tie the score at 68-68.
- Freshman Layla Gold (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) came up with a big blocked shot on the defensive end to give Valpo the chance to take the lead, but the Beacons were unable to convert.
- With each team set for potentially one more possession and the clock at 20 seconds, Valpo forced the missed shot it needed, but the scramble for the rebound saw Evansville’s Nevaeh Thomas come out with it and lay it back up and in with 13 seconds remaining.
- The Beacons turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play and were forced to foul. The Purple Aces split the pair of free throws, giving Valpo one more chance with the deficit at three points, but the Beacons’ potential game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds was off the mark.
Inside the Game
- Brown paced Valpo on Sunday with 19 points, her second-highest scoring output of the season. It marks the fourth time this year she has led the Beacons in scoring.
- The majority of Brown’s damage came from deep, as she went 4-for-6 from 3-point range — the fourth time this season she has hit four triples.
- Earnest registered her fifth double-double of the year, posting 17 points and a team-best 12 rebounds.
- Over half of Earnest’s points came at the foul line, where she was a perfect 9-for-9. It was the best individual performance at the charity stripe by a Valpo player since Shay Frederick went 14-for-14 at Indiana State Feb. 20, 2022.
- Earnest jumped two spots on Valpo’s career rebounding chart on Sunday, as her 12 caroms pushed her career total to 576 — 14th-best in program history.
- Saniya Jackson rounded out the trio of Valpo players in double figures with 16 points — tying her season best — on 6-of-10 shooting.
- Nevaeh Jackson just missed making it four Beacons in double figures, as she scored nine points and dished out a team-best four assists.
- Gold set season highs across the board with seven rebounds, six blocked shots and four steals.
- Gold’s six rejections are tied for fourth-most in a single game in program history. Only one player all-time at Valpo has blocked more than six shots in a game.
- Gold is one of just six D-I players this season to post at least six blocks and four steals in a single game, and is the only freshman among that group. She is the first Valpo and the first MVC player to reach both those marks in one contest since Caitlin Morrison did so against Chicago State Dec. 28, 2019.
- Gold has blocked 10 shots combined over Valpo’s last two games.
- Valpo shot just 36.5% from the field Sunday, compared to a 43.9% clip for the Purple Aces. The Beacons did go 16-for-17 from the foul line, a season-best 94.1% from the charity stripe.
- Led by Earnest and Gold, Valpo out-rebounded Evansville by a 37-35 final margin.
- The Beacons tallied 10 team steals, the 10th time this season they have been in double figures in that category. But despite the numbers in the turnovers department being nearly equal — 15 by Evansville, 16 by Valpo — the Purple Aces held an 18-7 edge in points off turnovers.
Post-Game Press Conference - Head Coach Mary Evans
Valpo (4-17, 3-9 MVC) returns to the road next week for the swing through central Illinois. The weekend begins Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at Bradley.