Led by one household name and one standout newcomer, the Valparaiso University women’s basketball team cruised to a season-opening 81-47 win over IU Kokomo at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Thursday night. Senior Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington) did her thing – pouring in 26 points to lead all scorers – while freshman Bryce Blood (Toledo, Ohio / Whitmer) provided the game’s most significant storyline, registering a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds in her collegiate debut.
How It Happened
- In her return after missing the exhibition game with an injury, it didn’t take Valpo’s leading returning scorer long to make her presence known. Franklin scored the first five points of the game and had seven by the first media timeout to help Valpo (1-0) out to a 9-2 lead.
- The Cougars (3-2) chipped away late in the first quarter, whittling what was once an 11-point edge down to two at 18-16 by quarter’s end with a 9-0 run.
- Valpo poured it on in the second quarter, accumulating 29 points in that stanza to take a commanding 47-23 halftime advantage. The Crusaders were aided by 17 first-half IU Kokomo turnovers and Valpo made eight steals before the break.
- Franklin entered the third quarter with a game-high 17 points, while Blood was nearing a double-double by halftime with 10 points and seven boards.
- The Cougars went just 3-of-10 shooting and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc in the second quarter. Blood converted all four of her field-goal attempts and hauled in six rebounds in that quarter alone.
- Valpo closed the third quarter on a 14-0 run that was bookended by 3-point baskets. Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) drained the triple that started the spurt, while Franklin hit from distance as the horn sounded ending the quarter.
- That run expanded to 16-0 after Valpo scored the first points of the fourth, before the Cougars finally stopped a drought that was over six minutes in length.
- After outscoring their guests 19-9 in the third to take a 66-32 lead into the final stanza, the Crusaders played only one starter in the fourth quarter while coasting to the win.
Inside the Game
- This marks the fourth straight year Valpo has had a true freshman score nine points or more in the season opener. Blood joins teammates Grace Hales, Meredith Hamlet and Dani Franklin in having accomplished that feat. Each of the first three who have done so went on to enjoy successful rookie campaigns.
- Blood became the first Valpo player with a double-double in a season opener since Aimee Litka had 17 points and 10 rebounds against Bowling Green on Nov. 19, 2008.
- Franklin jumped into a tie for sixth in program history for career made field goals. Her nine makes on Thursday boosted her career total to 471.
- Franklin drained four 3s in the game, moving past Heidi Diefenthaler (1992-96) for ninth in program history for career made 3s. The Valpo seniors now stands at 141 in her career.
- Three Crusaders finished in double figures as Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) chipped in 12 points.
- Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake) and Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill. / Glenbrook South) made an impact on the glass, squeezing six rebounds apiece.
- The Crusaders outrebounded the Cougars 46-27 and forced 25 turnovers while racking up 14 steals.
- Blood started in her collegiate debut, while fellow freshmen Ellenson, Taylor Richards (Doylestown, Ohio / Chippewa) and Nicole Konieczny (Granger, Ind. / South Bend St. Joseph) all also played in their first regular season college game.
- Valpo has won three straight home games for the first time since December 2015. Valpo closed last season with wins in each of its last two ARC contests.
- Valpo improved to 4-2 in home openers during Tracey Dorow’s time as head coach.
Thoughts from Head Coach Tracey Dorow
Thoughts on the Game: “I thought we came out really strong. We played extremely well in the second quarter. Dani was really good on the offensive end, and Bryce was really good on both ends. It was fun to see us play against somebody else and not just compete against ourselves.”
On Dani Franklin: “Her leadership is incredible. It brings confidence to every player to have her on the floor, regardless of her stats. She made a 3 early in the game, and was a big-time difference maker for us from that point forward.”
On Rebounding: “I thought we crashed the boards really well. We got our hands on a lot of balls on both ends. Bryce went after the boards extremely hard. She was under control when she got it, and then she either scored or kicked it out and got us another possession.”
On the Second Quarter: “We were really aggressive in trapping the ball screens and taking them out of everything they wanted to do. We got deflections and forced turnovers. We attacked the rim at the other end. I was really impressed that we were able to score 29 and hold them down.”
The Crusaders will hit the road for the first time this season for a Tuesday matinee at Miami (OH). The game tips off at 11 a.m. CT and can been seen on ESPN3 or heard on 95.1 FM WVUR with Ben Ariano and Brandon Vickrey on the call. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.