The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team took care of business on the road on Monday afternoon, defeating Eastern Illinois 76-67 behind a season-high 28 points from senior Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington). Franklin filled the stat sheet, adding eight rebounds, five steals and five assists to help her team complete the program’s best 10-game start since 2001.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (6-4) started in a 6-0 hole as Highland High School graduate Taylor Steele and Danielle Berry each had early 3s for Eastern Illinois (1-8). Valpo then trailed 8-2 before Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill. / Glenbrook South) buried a 3 for Valpo’s first field goal of the game, cutting it to 8-5 with 6:41 left in the first.
- Franklin’s first points of the day followed, a 3 that tied the game. Twice more, the Panthers took the lead before Valpo’s first edge of the day came after a Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) jumper with 4:23 to go in the first to make it 14-13.
- The first quarter continued to go back and forth until Morrison connected on another 3-pointer, this one to make it a five-point lead with 30 seconds to play in the quarter. In all, the first quarter featured four ties and three lead changes.
- The Crusaders took a 21-16 lead with them to the second quarter and would not relinquish that edge for the game’s duration. The Panthers got as close as 24-20 in the second, but Valpo went on a 7-0 run capped by Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) draining a 3 to open the lead to double figures for the first time at 31-20.
- The Panthers scored the final four points of a low-scoring period that saw Valpo outscore Eastern Illinois 10-8. The Crusaders went into halftime holding a 31-24 lead after neither team scored for the final 2:26 of the half.
- Eastern Illinois’ strongest shooting quarter was the third, as the Panthers went 6-of-7 from beyond the arc. The Crusaders withstood the push, outscoring EIU 25-23 in the third by virtue of shooting 56 percent. Franklin had nine points in the quarter on 4-of-6 shooting.
- A 3-pointer by Hales expanded the lead to 12 with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter, and the edge stood at nine, 56-47, going to the fourth.
- Franklin finished strong by scoring 12 of the team’s 20 fourth-quarter points. Eastern Illinois went cold down the stretch, going 1-of-8 from 3-point distance in the final quarter of action.
Inside the Game
- Valpo garnered 11 steals in the game, the team’s highest total against a Division I team this year. Five of those steals belonged to Franklin, who reached a career high in that area. Her previous career best was four steals, which came on Feb. 2 of last season against Youngstown State.
- Franklin’s five assists marked a career high in that category as well. She had reached three assists five times previously, but had never gone beyond three in a single game.
- The Crusaders have a winning record through 10 games for the first time since 2001-02. Valpo is up to six nonconference wins, a total the team hasn’t reached since 2008-09. The program has won two true road games during the nonconference slate for the first time since 2008-09.
- Valpo has won or tied all eight quarters over the last two games. They’ve scored 20 points or more in seven of those eight quarters.
- Franklin has thrived against Eastern Illinois over the last two seasons – scoring 33 points at the ARC a year ago before this year’s 28-point output.
- Franklin was joined in double figures by Hales (13) and Meredith (11).
- Valpo performed well at the free-throw line for the second straight game, going 19-of-22 (86 percent).
- All nine Crusaders who played in the game scored – the first time this season that every Valpo player who saw action entered the scoring column.
Thoughts from Head Coach Tracey Dorow
“We did a strong job moving the ball, attacking and creating good looks. I’m proud that we got to the free-throw line frequently. Eastern Illinois heated up shooting the ball in the third quarter, and we were able to dig deep and weather that storm. I’m extremely pleased with the way our kids responded. Basketball is a game of spurts, and today we had one more spurt than they did. We didn’t hang our heads at any point; we maintained our composure.”
“Dani anticipated where the ball was going and did a great job moving to those spots. She made plays when the ball was there. Our players are looking to her as a senior leader, and she’s setting the tone right now. Meredith (Hamlet) didn’t shoot well, but vocally was very in tune with what needed to be done. Those two kids really led the way.”
“For the third straight game, Maya has come in and made big plays. We’ve thrown her into the fire, and she’s learning. Nicole played through being tired due to her illness and made positive contributions. Grace knocked down shots and made big plays. We didn’t play as many players because the kids who were out there were jelling together. Even the players who didn’t play brought important energy to the bench, and that helped us pick up a win in a difficult road environment.”
The Crusaders will play the final nonconference game of the year on Thursday night as Fort Wayne comes to the Athletics-Recreation Center for a 7 p.m. tip. The game can be seen on The Valley on ESPN3, heard on 95.1 Valparaiso and followed via live stats. Coverage links are posted on ValpoAthletics.com.