Women's Basketball

A View of the Valley: Previewing Loyola Women’s Basketball MVC Opponents

Steve Woltmann | Loyola AthleticsThe Loyola women’s basketball team will begin its conference season when it faces off against Missouri State University, the No. 1 pick in the 2021-22 Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll, on Dec. 31.

The Loyola women’s basketball team (5-3) has had a successful non-conference schedule to open the season, with wins against Chicago rivals and other tough opponents.

Before Loyola begins Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play Dec. 31 against Missouri State University, it’s time to scout what the team’s MVC season will look like. 

The Valley is the eighth-hardest Division I conference out of 32 conferences to play in based on rating percentage index (RPI), a rating used to rank conferences based on records and strength of schedule.

Missouri State University 

The Lady Bears (6-2) were tabbed first in the MVC women’s basketball preseason poll. Before conference play, Missouri State has had a tough non-conference schedule with wins against teams such as No. 24 Virginia Tech and the University of Southern California. 

The Lady Bears’ inconsistent offense can save or sink the team, ranging from shooting 21% from the floor in its Nov. 17 loss to Oklahoma State to 50% from the floor in their Nov. 9 win against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

Missouri State is led by MVC senior forward Jasmine Franklin, who dominates the boards while scoring close to the basket. Franklin averages 15.4 points per game while picking up 12.9 rebounds on average, the third-highest average in the nation behind Utah Valley University junior center Josie Williams’s 13.6 rebounds per game and University of South Florida senior forward Bethy Mununga’s 13.1 rebounds on average.

Evansville University 

The Purples Aces (5-3) have overcome expectations after a 6-18 (2-16 MVC) record last season. Evansville works well offensively, averaging 78.3 points per game while shooting 43% from the floor. Their ability to force 22.4 turnovers per game helps their offense average 21.3 points off turnovers. 

The team’s high-scoring offense is needed to outpace their opponents because of the team’s subpar rebounding skills, allowing 45.4 rebounds on average. In Evansville’s loss against Eastern Kentucky University Nov. 17, the Colonels scored 85 points, with 18 second-chance points, proving too much for the Purple Aces’ offense.

University of Northern Iowa (UNI)

Northern Iowa’s season has been off to a good start with a 6-2 non-conference record. Senior guard Karli Rucker leads the Panthers, scoring 12.8 points per game on average while shooting 61% from three-point territory. In UNI’s victory against North Dakota State University Nov. 17, Rucker scored 27 points while knocking down four three-pointers. 

On the other side of the court, senior forward Bre Gunnels guides the team defensively, contributing 1.8 blocks per game and two steals on average. Northern Iowa gives up 59.9 points on average, while Loyola scores an average of 66.8 points per game.

Drake University

The Bulldogs (6-2) currently share the top spot in the MVC standings with Missouri State. Drake succeeds with a high-scoring offense that averages 78.8 points per game. However, many of Drake’s games come down to the wire as their opponents score 74.4 points on average.

Drake is led by junior forward Maggie Bair who excels on both ends of the court, averaging 12.6 points per game while contributing 6.6 rebounds on average. Bair lifted Drake to victory against the University of Nevada 77-75 Nov. 26, scoring 17 points while grabbing nine rebounds.

Bradley University

Coming off a 2020-2021 season that ended in winning the MVC women’s basketball tournament and punching a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, Bradley (3-4) hasn’t gotten off on the right foot early in the season and currently sits at sixth place in the MVC. 

Graduate guard Gabi Haack powers the team’s offense, scoring 17.7 points on average. Haack is also a solid three-point shooter, averaging nearly four buckets from beyond the arc per game on 47% shooting from three-point territory. Junior forward Sierra Morrow is the team’s defensive leader, earning 4.3 rebounds on average and 1.4 blocks per game.

Indiana State University

The Sycamores (3-5) are looking to improve after a 5-15 (2-12 MVC) record and a ninth-place finish last season. Indiana State has already made some improvements, limiting their opponents from 75.8 points per game last season to just 63.1 points on average this season. The team still needs to work on limiting turnovers, as it concedes the ball an average of 20.6 times per game, which have created 17.5 points off turnovers on average for their opponents.

Junior guard Del’Janae Williams leads the team with 110 points and 13 three-point field goals this season while averaging 13.8 points per game. Defensively, graduate guard Marie Hunter contributes an average of 2.3 steals per game, including a season-high five steals in Indiana State’s game against Georgia Southern University Nov. 27.

Southern Illinois University (SIU)

Southern Illinois (2-3) has only played five games this season after its Nov. 24 match against Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Jaguars’ program. 

In their first two games of the season, Southern Illinois only shot 30% from the floor. However, one of the Salukis’ losses did come to No. 15 University of Tennessee, offering the team a tough challenge before Valley play. Even graduate forward Abby Brockmeyer, who averages 13 points per game, only shot 16% from the floor in the team’s loss against Tennessee. 

The Salukis’ offense drastically improved to help earn the team their first win of the season against Southeast Missouri State University, shooting 60% from the floor and 50% from three-point distance. Graduate guard Makenzie Silvey stood out in the win, scoring 21 points while also earning six rebounds and eight assists.

Illinois State University (ISU)

After a successful 2020-2021 season with a 16-9 (12-6 MVC) record, the Redbirds (2-6) currently hold the second-worst record in the Valley. The team is inexperienced, with only two seniors while the team has three sophomores and four first-year players. Illinois State is led by its offense, shooting 45% from the field and 34% from three-point distance. 

Junior forward Deanna Wilson leads the team in scoring by averaging 12.3 points per game, while also leading the team with 6.5 rebounds per game on average. Graduate guard Juliunn Redmond, who also averages 12.3 points per game, picks up an average of 1.5 steals per game

Valparaiso University

Valparaiso’s season has started off with a tough 0-7 record. While winless, most of the Beacons’ losses have been close games like their 68-64 loss to the University of Illinois Chicago Nov. 23. The Beacons struggle offensively, only averaging 57.6 points per game while their opponents score 71.3 points on average. 

Red-shirt junior guard Carie Weinman and graduate guard Grace White are Valparaiso’s top scorers, scoring 12.3 and 11.6 points per game on average, respectively. White is the team’s best perimeter shooter, knocking down 38% of her shots from three-point distance. Valparaiso also faces difficulties with ball possession, conceding an average of 15.4 turnovers per game. 

Before conference play, the Ramblers are set to travel to Mount Pleasant, Michigan to face Central Michigan University Dec. 11. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. and the game is set to be broadcast on ESPN3.

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