Beacons get in the zone
WBB: Valparaiso survives overtime thriller against Evansville
EVANSVILLE - Mary Evans reached deep into her bag of tricks on Friday night and pulled out a victory as the Valparaiso women’s basketball team survived an overtime thriller with a 75-70 win over Evansville.
After getting pushed around all night to the tune of surrendering 40 points in the paint, the Beacons shifted to a 2-3 zone in overtime and held the Purple Aces without any field goals in the extra session.
The only catch is that Valparaiso hadn’t played a 2-3 zone all season and the Beacons never even practiced it before taking the court on Friday night.
“The problem we were having was stopping their dribble penetration,” Evans said. “We haven’t worked on a 2-3. We worked on 3-2 zone this year and we haven’t used it much. Luckily the group that was out there have played together for a couple years and they understood the rules. We went to it because the players felt confident with it. We wanted to shrink the floor and keep them out of the paint.”
While four of Valpo’s players on the floor in overtime (Maya Dunson, Shay Frederick, Carie Weinman, Grace White) were familiar with the 2-3 zone from last season, St. Bonaventure transfer Olivia Brown was thrust into it for the first time.
“We all looked at each other (in the huddle) and we said it was going to work,” Brown said. “We all got on the same page. They were killing us in the paint. It was a good countermove. I wasn’t excited until we finished the game. It was the right move and it’s what brought us the win.
Brown shined in regulation and then it was Valparaiso’s Big Three of Frederick, Weinman and White that delivered all the scoring in overtime. In order to even get to overtime, the Beacons needed some late-game heroics from Frederick as she knocked down a corner 3-pointer with 20.2 seconds remaining in regulation. The basket represented Frederick’s first points of the second half after scoring a team-high 11 points in the first half.
“It was just looking at my matchups,” Frederick said. “In the first half I had a matchup that I thought I could beat. They put a different player on me in the second half and I thought my teammates would be a better option.”
Evansville split a pair of free throws on its first two possessions of overtime and had a 70-69 lead after Weinman connected on a free throw. Evans shifted the Beacons to the zone and the Purple Aces struggled to get another clean look at the basket. The next three possessions resulted in disjointed looks from Evansville.
Valparaiso took the lead for good with 2:04 remaining when Frederick connected on a pair of free throws. The senior the delivered a key assist to White under the basket to extend the lead to 73-70 with 1:08 remaining. It was White’s biggest play on a night where her scoring (8 points) took a backseat to her hustle (11 rebounds, 7 assists).
“I try to do what my team needs,” White said. “We had people scoring with Shay, Carie and Liv. They were so worried about us hitting shots and 3-pointers. Shay is a phenomenal passer. We didn’t have much time and as soon as she picked up the ball, I just went for it.”
Frederick extended the lead with two more free throws and then Weinman came up with a rebound and steal in the final seconds to secure the victory.
There was a time in the game where it looked as if Frederick might be done for the night. She went down with an apparent ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter and sidelined for several minutes before returning to the court.
“I must have run into someone, but it was scary,” Frederick said. “Illyse (Pitts) is a great player and I don’t think she gets enough credit for the stuff she does on the floor. I wasn’t worried at all in that aspect. She was doing a great job out there.”
Frederick finished with 18 points and seven assists while Weinman had 16 points, including 14 in the second half and overtime. Brown had 14 points on just five shots.
The Beacons (9-16, 7-7) will return to action on Sunday with a noon tip at Indiana State. The Sycamores beat Valparaiso 85-65 on Jan. 21 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Indiana State scored 58 points in the paint and took just nine 3-pointers. Could Sunday be another game in which the Beacons break out the 2-3 zone?
“I think we’ll work on it a little bit in Saturday’s practice,” Evans said with a smile.
The win was especially gratifying as it took the team nearly 12 hours to get to Evansville from Valparaiso on Thursday.
Perhaps it was fitting that Friday’s game went to overtime as the Valparaiso men’s basketball team was in attendance prior to its game against the Purple Aces on Saturday afternoon. The women’s basketball team made its first appearance in an overtime game on Friday while the men’s team leads the country with six overtime appearances.
Valparaiso has alternated wins and losses in 11 straight games. The last steak of any kind came when the Beacons knocked off Drake and Northern Iowa at the ARC in early January.
With this trip to Evansville, I’ve now been to every city in the Valley. I’ve never attended games at Missouri State or Drake, but I have been to both arenas. I snuck in at Missouri State during a high school basketball tournament in December 2019 and I stuck my head in for graduation at Drake last summer. My girlfriend and I had a much easier drive down on Friday than the women’s team had the day before. After the game we had some excellent food and beverages at Turoni’s Pizzery & Brewery right near campus. Thanks to The Victory Bell subscriber Todd Ickow for the excellent recommendation.
The Victory Bell will be covering quite a few games in the coming days. The men’s team plays at Evansville on Saturday and again at home on Monday. They’ll also be in action at the ARC on Wednesday against Drake. The women play Indiana State on Sunday and then host Loyola on Friday. That’s six games in eight days. All six of those game stories are free on The Victory Bell, but the site is only able to function thanks to your subscriptions for the other great content on the site. A reminder that for $5/month or $49.99/year you’ll get access to everything on the site. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll purchase a paid subscription. Maybe for yourself or maybe for a friend. Thank you for the support.
(Photo provided by Valparaiso Athletics)