Trailing Valparaiso University by two points with five seconds remaining in the game, the Loyola women’s basketball team (10-8, 8-6) had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead. But a costly turnover by sophomore guard Sam Galanopoulos sealed the Ramblers’ fate.
Loyola came up just short in a 57-55 loss to Valpo Feb. 24 at Gentile Arena. With the loss, Loyola slipped from third to fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings with just four games left on the Ramblers’ schedule. Galanopoulos’ final turnover was her fifth of the game, but she also led the Ramblers with 13 points and six assists.
Based on the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), Loyola and Valpo were about as evenly matched as possible. Loyola entered the matchup ranked No. 137 out of 343 Division I teams, while Valpo was just two spots higher at No. 135. The game didn’t disappoint, with the lead changing hands 15 times — including seven ties.
The Ramblers jumped out to an early 4-0 lead to start the game. Loyola first-year guard Maya Chandler sank a three-pointer in the final seconds of the first period to put the Ramblers ahead 14-11. Senior forward Grace White and redshirt junior guard Carie Weinman combined for all 11 of Valpo’s points in the opening quarter.
Valpo opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 20-16 lead with 5:16 remaining in the half. Loyola responded with a quick 6-0 run to take a two-point lead, but Valpo still managed to hold a 26-24 once halftime rolled around.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, with the lead changing nine times and the two squads tying at four separate occasions. Neither team led by more than four points in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Ramblers came out strong offensively in the third quarter, shooting 50 percent from the field. Loyola rattled off a 9-2 run to start the period and jumped out to a five-point lead. The Ramblers were able to stretch their lead to 39-32 with 2:27 left in the third quarter — a seven-point lead would be the largest for either team.
However, Valpo was able to regain some momentum when first-year guard Molly Sheehan knocked to a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining in the third period to cut into Loyola’s lead. The Ramblers still led 42-39 heading into the final 10 minutes of action.
Much like the rest of the game, the fourth quarter was neck-and-neck. Loyola managed to take a 46-41 lead with 5:44 remaining, but Valpo responded with a 6-0 run to take a one-point lead.
Later in the period, the Ramblers once again had the advantage, this time leading 51-47 with 2:53 left to play. However, Valpo tore off an 8-2 run — with five of those points coming from White — to grab a 55-53 lead with 24 seconds to go.
But on the next play, White fouled out after picking up her fifth personal foul and sending Loyola first-year forward Sitori Tanin to the free throw line.
Tanin sank both free throws to tie the game at 55 with 11 seconds still on the clock. Valpo had possession, but the Brown and Gold were without their leading scorer in the game. After driving past Loyola senior guard Ellie Rice, Valpo junior guard Shay Frederick hit the eventual game-winning layup with five seconds remaining.
Frederick is Valpo’s second-highest scorer this season, averaging 13.5 points per game, and while she came through when Valpo needed it most, she finished with just six points in the game. Before fouling out, White racked up 22 points to lead all scorers in the game, while Weinman chipped in 12 points.
Loyola head coach Kate Achter said White knocked down some difficult shots and was able to take advantage when a smaller or slower defender was guarding her.
“The matchup wasn’t ideal with some of the switches and [White] took advantage of it which is what Valpo kind of does,” Achter said. “I was disappointed that we weren’t able to contain her better. Twenty-two points in 26 minutes for our defense is just not okay, but that’s why Valpo won.”
Meanwhile, Tanin was the only other Rambler to finish in double figures, chipping in 11 points and six rebounds.
“We felt like we took care of business,” Achter said. “We took care of the basketball, we had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, we won the rebound battle, we shot 35 percent from [three-point territory], we won the battle of the bench. It’s a little bit baffling I think when you look at it that way.”
Despite the loss, the Ramblers held the edge in most statistical categories, including having 16 more points off turnovers and 12 more second-chance points. However, one of the key areas Loyola struggled in was shooting. The Ramblers shot 35.6 percent from the field, while Valpo knocked down 45.7 percent of its shots.
After the loss, Achter aired her frustrations with the Ramblers’ scheduling and the lack of rest and home games her team has had recently. She cited how her players have played 12 games since Jan. 19 and without a bye week.
The Ramblers are scheduled to go back out on the road Feb. 27-28 to face Missouri State University. The Lady Bears are undefeated in conference play and clinched the MVC regular season title with a win over Southern Illinois University Feb. 24.
“It’s essentially almost six consecutive games on the road which is not okay,” Achter said. “You can argue all you want like ‘We had a home game here tonight,’ but it’s three weekends in a row where we’re on the road.”
Tip-off for both games against Missouri State is set for 5 p.m. on ESPN+.