Times are brighter for the Valparaiso women’s basketball team.
After nearly a month and a half of winless basketball, the Crusaders have now picked up two conference wins in the past two and a half weeks, after their 41-32 win over Northern Kentucky this past weekend.
Throughout the season, there have been overarching themes of what the team is doing well and what they’re struggling with. There have been stretches where they struggled offensively. There has been stretches where Dani Franklin looked like the best player in the conference. There has been stretches where they struggled with turnovers and rebounding the basketball.
One thing that hasn’t been talked about much, though, is their ability to shut down the opposing team’s leading scorer, and that’s something that even in losses, has been apparent throughout the year.
Of course, the Crusaders haven’t been able to overcome every star to cross their path, but more often than not this season, Valparaiso has handled them well.
Looking back at the first conference win against Youngstown State, which was a complete performance all around, Valparaiso held both Alison Smolinski and Indiya Benjamin to under 15 points. Smolinski in particular was a player who had a good game the first time these two teams met, scoring 19 points. The second time around, even though Smolinski shot 50 percent from the floor, the Crusaders held her to just 14 points, which was a key in the win.
Then looking at their win over Northern Kentucky, this was by far the most impressive defensive effort of the season. While Northern Kentucky isn’t a strong offensive team, holding them to just 32 points was a solid team effort. The Crusaders held Northern Kentucky star Kasey Uetrecht to just six points on 1-10 shooting. The defensive effort against Uetrecht was essential to the win.
However, it hasn’t just been in the wins where they’ve done well shutting down opposing team’s top players.
When the Crusaders faced Green Bay, then a ranked team, they successfully held Mehryn Kraker, the league’s leading scorer, to just seven points on 2-11 shooting.
Even further back, when they faced the Titans of Detroit Mercy, Valparaiso shut down Rosanna Reynolds, who is a top-five scorer in the league. She was held to just seven points.
This trend continued the two times the Crusaders faced off against Ashanti Abshaw and Cleveland State. Abshaw was inefficient both times she faced the Crusaders, shooting just 5-15 and 4-17 from the floor.
While there haven’t necessarily been the wins to show for these good defensive efforts against elite players, this is something that has been underlooked this season. This Crusader team, whether it’s the game-plans or individual efforts, has done a nice job against some of the top players in the league.