Morrison’s Career Night Leads Valpo to Friday Win at Illinois State
A career-high 21 points on near-perfect shooting from senior Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) and an explosive third quarter were the perfect combination for the Valpo women’s basketball team on Friday night, as the Brown and Gold bounced back from Thursday night’s overtime loss to roll to a 75-58 win at Illinois State and earn a split of the two-game series. Along the way, junior Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis./Hortonville) moved into Valpo’s top-10 in career assists.
How It Happened
– Morrison came out firing on all cylinders Friday, scoring eight of Valpo’s first nine points — including a pair of 3-pointers — as Valpo jumped out to a 9-2 lead 5:30 into the game.
– Another 3-pointer from the senior pushed Valpo’s advantage to 14-7 with two minutes to play in the opening period, but Illinois State ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to tie it 14-14 10 minutes into the game.
– The Redbirds pulled ahead early in the second quarter, eventually completing an 11-0 run spanning the two periods. Illinois State’s lead reached its peak at 24-19 with 3:37 to play in the first half.
– Valpo scored eight of the final 11 points of the second quarter, including consecutive 3-pointers by Frederick and Morrison — the latter capping a 14-point first half — to tie the game at 27-27 at halftime.
– The Redbirds scored the first basket of the third quarter, but it was all Valpo from there, as the Brown and Gold went on a 17-3 run over a five-minute stretch to pull out to a double-digit lead.
– The play of senior Grace White (Redby, Minn./Red Lake [Denver]) got the run started, as White scored seven points in the first three minutes of the second half.
– Later on, with the lead just four points, Valpo scored eight points in a three-possession stretch to pull away. Morrison connected from inside to start the mini-spurt, and then first sophomore Cara VanKempen (Coopersville, Mich./Coopersville) and then junior Maya Dunson (Dayton, Ohio/Wayne [Loyola]) knocked down 3-pointers to cap the 17-3 run and force an Illinois State timeout with the lead at 44-32 with 3:44 to play in the period.
– Just as important as the offense during that stretch was Valpo’s effort on the defensive end, as it eventually held the Redbirds without a field goal for a span of 6:43 in the third quarter as it pulled away.
– Later in the period, Valpo scored seven straight on four free throws from Frederick sandwiching another 3-poiner from White to push its edge even higher. At the end of the quarter, the Brown and Gold held a 56-39 lead.
– Valpo took the lead past 20 points for the first time early in the fourth quarter, as fittingly it was Morrison knocking down a 3-pointer to make it a 61-39 game with 8:38 to play. The lead never fell under 12 points the rest of the way as Valpo completed the win.
Inside the Game
– Friday’s win came over an Illinois State squad which entered the game ranked #37 in the NCAA’s NET metric. It is Valpo’s highest-ranked win by NET or RPI since beating Purdue — which finished the season 18th in the RPI — on Dec. 10, 2008.
– Valpo now owns a top-100 win in each of the last two weeks and has four top-100 wins among its last six MVC victories.
– Dating back to last year, Valpo has won four of its last six MVC road games after starting its tenure in the MVC 4-19 in its first 23 road games.
– The 17-point margin of victory was Valpo’s third-largest in an MVC road game since joining the conference, only topped by last year’s wins at Indiana State and Evansville.
– Morrison was the standout in Friday’s victory, going for a career-best 21 points. The senior was 7-of-8 from the field, including 5-of-6 from behind the 3-point line — also setting a career high for 3-pointers made.
– Morrison has now scored in double figures in five of Valpo’s last seven games.
– Frederick backed Morrison up with an 18-point effort, highlighted by an 11-of-12 mark at the foul line, while White rounded out a trio of double-figure scorers with 11 points.
– With Frederick’s second assist of the game, a helper on a 3-pointer from Dunson with 2:45 left in the third quarter, the junior moved into Valpo’s career top-10 in assists. Frederick now owns 288 career assists, just one away from moving up to ninth place in program history.
– Junior Carie Weinman (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South [Denver]) filled up the stat sheet in Friday’s win, highlighted by a game-high eight assists, soaring past her previous career high of five assists. Weinman also tallied eight points, five rebounds and a game-best four steals — her fifth game this season with four thefts.
– Dunson knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in her second straight effort of eight points, while senior Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis./Rice Lake) led Valpo in rebounding for the second straight game with seven boards.
– Valpo enjoyed its best game of the season from the 3-point line, connecting on 11-of-22 (50%) from deep. It was the Brown and Gold’s fourth time this year hitting at least 10 triples, and the first time it shot 50% or better from downtown since hitting half their efforts from the 3-point line in last year’s regular season finale at Southern Illinois.
– Valpo also posted a season-best free throw percentage, going 22-of-25 (88%) from the foul line. It marks the fourth time in Valpo’s last five games it has hit at least 80% from the charity stripe.
– Valpo’s defense was strong on Friday, as after allowing Illinois State to hit at a 44.4% clip from both the field and the 3-point line the previous evening, the Redbirds shot just 28.8% (17-of-59) from the floor and 20% (3-of-15) from deep on Friday.
– It is the third time this year that Valpo has held its opponent below 30% field goal shooting (Purdue, Western Michigan) and the fourth time Valpo’s opponent has shot 20% or worse from 3-point range.
– Morrison scored 11 points in Friday’s first quarter, while White enjoyed a 10-point third quarter. For both, it is the second time in their Valpo career scoring double figures in a single quarter.
– Over its first four MVC games, Valpo has had seven players score double digits in a quarter — four from Frederick, and one apiece by Morrison, Weinman and White.
Thoughts From Coach Evans
“A lot of the coaches in the conference have talked, and I feel like we’re all on the same page that splitting a road weekend on a back-to-back is going to be a special thing if you can do it. It was already hard with the Friday/Sunday series, so to do it back-to-back is going to be even harder. Hats off to our young women for how hard they fought and how focused they stayed. We were mentally tougher, executed our offense and defense extremely well the majority of the game and they deserved to win the game tonight.”
“Being the third year in our system, our players have more experiences, which I feel makes it easier to make adjustments at halftime. We can reference previous games, what we’ve had to do and how we’ve had to adjust at halftime. I’ve got a great coaching staff that does a great job scouting and does a great job watching the game live and giving feedback. We made some really good adjustments tonight on defense, and our players were very attentive to making small adjustments.”
“Caitlin was aggressive tonight. We know she is a fantastic shooter, and she really has an advantage against a lot of 5’s in our conference. She came out aggressive – the defense played off her and she didn’t think, she just caught the ball and shot it. Then she started driving the ball, getting to the rim and attacking their bigs. She did a good job defensively too, helping to keep their guards out of the paint tonight.”
Valpo (6-5, 2-2 MVC) had next weekend’s scheduled series against Southern Illinois postponed to Feb. 27-28 due to positive COVID-19 tests within the SIU program. Valpo’s next game will be at the ARC against Loyola.