A B1G Win: Valpo Women Take Down Illinois Wednesday

It was a milestone night for the Valpo women’s basketball program Wednesday evening in Champaign, Ill., as the Brown and Gold earned the first win over Illinois in program history and their first win over a power conference opponent since 2012, holding the Illini scoreless over the final 2:54 to come from behind for a 62-59 victory. Senior Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) put Valpo in front for good with a layup with 42.8 seconds to play.

How It Happened

-        Trailing by five entering the fourth quarter, Valpo surrendered the first basket of the period to the Illini, but bounced right back with a 3-point play from Morrison and a 3-pointer by junior Carie Weinman (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South [Denver]) to quickly cut the lead to one point.

-        A 3-pointer from sophomore Cara VanKempen (Coopersville, Mich./Coopersville) tied the game at 56-56 with 6:41 to play.

-        The next few minutes became a struggle for control of the game, as both defenses stepped up the intensity. In fact, for a five-minute stretch after VanKempen’s triple, just three total points were scored — all of which went on Illinois’ side of the scoreboard as the Illini led 59-56 with under two minutes to play.

-        Perhaps the biggest basket of the game came from senior Grace White (Redby, Minn./Red Lake [Denver]), as on Valpo’s first possession under two minutes, she drove down the left side and finished up and over a pair of Illinois defenders from the block to make it a one-point game.

-        Illinois missed two shots on its next possession, and Valpo called timeout after rebounding the second miss to advance the ball into the frontcourt with 49.3 seconds to go. The inbounds went to White, whose attempted drive on the right side was cut off. But Morrison flashed down the center of the paint, and White found her with a perfect pass for an easy inside bucket with 42.8 seconds remaining to put Valpo ahead 60-59.

-        Weinman came up with a blocked shot on an inside effort from the Illini on the defensive end, and Illinois was forced to foul to put Valpo in the bonus. White split a pair with 26.5 seconds to go to push the lead to two points.

-        The Illini came down and missed two more attempts, the second of which was corralled by freshman Lauren Gunn (Fishers, Ind./Lawrence North), who had just been put back on the floor for that defensive possession. Gunn was then fouled and split two free throws with 10.7 seconds to play to make it 62-59 Valpo.

-        Illinois’ final 3-point attempt in the waning seconds was off the mark and the rebound bounced around until the final buzzer, securing Valpo’s first win over the Illini.

-        It was a slow start to the game for the Brown and Gold, as Valpo shot just 2-of-15 from the field in the opening quarter. Illinois led 13-6 at the end of 10 minutes.

-        The second quarter was a complete 180 from the first, however. Valpo outscored the Illini 25-16, thanks in large part to five 3-pointers.

-        Down 21-12 with 8:05 to play in the second period, Valpo went on a 13-3 run over the next 3:30 — including two triples by Weinman and four points from White — to take the lead. The lead would reach as many as four points late in the quarter before settling in at a 31-29 advantage at halftime.

-        Illinois seized control out of the locker room with a quick 10-2 run over the first two minutes of the second half. The Illini led for most of the third quarter, and after Weinman tied things up with a basket with 1:46 to go in the period, Illinois scored five points in the final minute to lead 50-45 with 10 minutes to play.

Inside the Game

-        Wednesday’s win was Valpo’s first in the all-time series over Illinois, as the Brown and Gold had dropped four previous meetings — all of which were decided by at least 19 points.

-        The victory was Valpo’s first over a Big Ten team — or any Power Five program, for that matter — since taking down Indiana 64-52 at the ARC to open the 2012-13 campaign.

-        It also was just the second road win over a Big Ten team in program history, joining Valpo’s triumph over Michigan in the first round of the 2002 WNIT.

-        For the second straight game, White paced Valpo on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting. She also led Valpo with nine rebounds and dished out five assists as well.

-        Weinman joined White in double figures with 16 points, including a 4-of-6 mark from behind the 3-point line.

-        Morrison and VanKempen added nine points apiece. Seven of Morrison’s nine points came in the final quarter, while VanKempen knocked down three triples for her nine points to match a career high. The sophomore also set a new career best with six rebounds.

-        Junior Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis./Hortonville) dished out a game-high six assists in the victory.

-        After going just 6-of-30 from the 3-point line in the season opener, Valpo enjoyed a massive edge from deep Wednesday. The Brown and Gold were 10-of-26 (38.5%) from downtown while holding Illinois to just 1-of-16 3-point shooting.

Thoughts From Coach Evans

“The older players on our team have made so much progress in this program. They have worked so hard and committed to do the work to be in the position to win games like this tonight. I am so proud of how they responded this week after a tough game on Sunday. They came out tonight with their only goal being to try and do all the little things correctly possession after possession, and I think that they did that for most of the game.”

“I think the MVC is one of the best leagues in the country, and my staff and I have to schedule non-conference games that will prepare us when our MVC slate starts. I don’t think we played enough of these types of games last year, and I felt like it showed in the first couple of weekends of MVC play. I wanted to challenge this group this year with the limited nonconference schedule so that we would be more prepared for Valley play.”

“I thought our young women did a fantastic job of playing one possession at a time in the fourth quarter. They worked together to get us good shots and stops on the defensive end. They were extremely locked in during timeouts about what we were trying to do. Hats off to them. This was a TEAM win and everyone that played tonight did their job. I thought our bench was amazing at bringing us energy as well.”

“This team can really shoot the basketball. We talked a lot this week about working together to get the shots that we want. After the first quarter, we settled in and moved the ball and got really high-percentage shots. I am excited for them — they put in so much work shooting the ball outside of practice and it was a matter of time before those shots started falling for us.”

“Grace is a really talented player and definitely has the ability to step up and lead this team with her play. She can create for herself and is so unselfish in creating for others as well. She is just entering her second season within our system, and I am looking forward to watching her growth over the course of this year.”

Next Up

Valpo (1-1) moves from one Big Ten opponent to the next, as a trip to West Lafayette to face off with Purdue awaits Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. CT. The game can be seen live on BTN+ and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso).