Women split games vs Illinois St., Indiana St.

BY CHRIS KWIECINSKI         

of the Scout

 

Redemption.

That could be the way to describe the weekend the Bradley women’s basketball team had.

The Braves split two games, both against Missouri Valley Conference opponents. Losing to Indiana State 80-67, then beating their rival Illinois State in a thriller 64-62.

The first game, against Indiana State, was a rough one for the Braves, as the Sycamores dominated the Braves by scoring 50 of their 80 points in the post.

“Post defense is something that’s going to be a hamper on us,” Coach Michael Brooks said. “We don’t have the athletes that other teams do, so we’ve got to play differently to be able to stop the things that they want to do.”

The Braves never led against Indiana State where the Sycamores dominated on the glass and capitalized by scoring off turnovers.

Michelle Young led the Braves with 15 points against the Sycamores, before fouling out with 8:55 remaining.

After losing to Indiana State, however, the Braves bounced back two days later with a win against Illinois State.

After collecting only 29 rebounds against Indiana State, the Braves came back on Sunday and amassed 37 against the Redbirds. Three players reached double figures, with senior guard Kelsey Budd leading the Braves with 15 points.

Bradley took a slim 63-62 lead with 45 seconds remaining on a free throw by Catie O’Leary that proved to be the game winning score, as Illinois State committed a travel with two seconds left. The score was made 64-62 on a Young free throw, which became the final score after a missed desperation heave by ISU.

Although the defensive post game has its struggles, the offensive post game has improved. The Braves got to the free throw line 33 times against the Sycamores and another 27 times against the Redbirds.

“Offensively, our post game was much better,” said Brooks. “We got the ball in, we drew fouls and we finished very well underneath the basket.”

Another big part of the Brave’s production this weekend was freshman Leti Lerma, who paced the offensive attack for the Braves.  Lerma totaled 17 points over the weekend, including tying her career-high with 10 points against ISU.

“Leti got us going,” said Brooks. “Leti is growing everyday as a freshman. You hope to see that growth and for her to continue to get better, and she is.”

In the first half against ISU, Lerma scored eight of her ten points, which put the Braves up early, and made key defensive plays in the second half to keep the Redbirds from taking the lead late.

Her play has Brooks excited for the future.

“Right now, we have seen so much growth and potential from her,” said Brooks. ”We’re just enthused with where she’s going to go and hope she continues on this path.”

Brooks also said he believes that the team is in a better place than the beginning of the year and is starting to pick up some momentum.

“We’re playing with a lot more heart and a lot more passion,” said Brooks. “We wavered in our belief this year at times, and we’re finally starting to put back to back games where we’ve played with great efforts.”

was freshman Leni Lerma, who paced the offensive attack for the women’s team as she totaled 17 points over the weekend, and sparked Bradley’s offense against ISU and was a rebound away from recording a double-double.

“Leni got us going,” said Brooks, “Lenis is growing everyday as a freshman, you hope to see that growth and for her to continue to get better, and she is.”

In the first half against ISU, Lerma scored eight of her 10 points, which put the Braves up early, and made key defensive plays in the second half to keep the Redbirds from taking the lead late.

Her play has coach Brooks excited for the future.

“Right now, we have seen so much growth and potential from her,” said Brooks. ”We’re just enthused with where she’s going to go and hope she continues on this path.”

Brooks also believes that the team is in a better place than the beginning of the year, and is starting to pick up some momentum.

“We’re playing with a lot more heart and a lot more passion,” said Brooks, “we wavered in our beliefs this year at times and we’re finally starting to put back to back games where we’ve played with great efforts.”

 

Chris Kwiecinski is the Scout’s sports reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @OchoK41.