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Bartley’s double-double leads Bruins over Braves

Caroline Waite gets set on defense. Photo by Jenna Zeise

Still looking for their first Missouri Valley Conference win, the Bradley Braves women’s basketball team hung tough with one the MVC’s best teams in Belmont on Sunday afternoon.

However, the play of Bruins’ forward Madison Bartley was too much for the Braves to handle down low, as Belmont took down Bradley 68-54. 

“[Madison Bartley’s] a really good player. I recruited her when I was an assistant at Northwestern.”

That was what Braves’ head coach Kate Popovec-Goss had to say Sunday afternoon after the Belmont star dominated the interior, finishing the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds on 10-20 shooting. Her stellar play helped the Bruins (13-10, 9-3 MVC) get the win over Bradley (3-20, 0-11 MVC).

The 14-point loss looked to be unlikely by the way the Braves started in their first ever matchup with Belmont. Sophomore guard Caroline Waite was one of bright spots early on seemed ready to go. The MVC Freshman of the Year started the game 3-/3, including two transition threes to give Bradley the early lead

“I just loved that we moved the basketball and played with freedom,” Popovec-Goss said. “I knew today in shootarounds that our kids were going to be ready to go.”

“I had confidence in myself,” Waite said. “I let the game come to me. I tried to relax and not rush any shots.”

The entire team seemed to take on the mantra of their point guard, finding their shots and shooting the ball with confidence. In the opening frame, the Braves made eight baskets, all of which were assisted. Intensity on both sides of the ball gave Bradley a 20-17 lead going into the second frame.

In the next period, the Braves struggled with the size of Belmont’s forwards. Bartley dominated down low, scoring 10 of her 22 in the second quarter alone. Bradley allowed seven second-chance points and cooled down on offense, which gave the Bruins a 34-29 lead going into halftime.

“We came out on fire. I knew we were going to cool off a little bit,” Popovec-Goss said. “I think we started thinking rather than just playing. I think fatigue set in, and we weren’t executing as well.”

The cool off was evident in the second quarter as they shot just 4-13 from the field and 0-3 from beyond the arc.

“I think we came out really strong in the first quarter,” Waite said. “We had a lot of confidence and moved the ball really well. I think we struggled in the second quarter because the ball kinda got stuck in people’s hands. We weren’t moving as well.”

Guard Ruba Abo Hashesh reads the defense. Photo by Jenna Zeise.

The third quarter was the difference in the game. In the frame, Bradley shot just 3-13 and allowed Belmont to get hot from deep. The team looked tired on both sides of the ball, seemingly from all the excess energy used to keep up with the former OVC powerhouse.

“I think a lot of our breakdowns in that third quarter came from fatigue,” Popovec-Goss said. “We looked tired. I think we played a really good defensive ball game in terms of scheme and staying in front.”

Offensive rebounds continued to hurt the Braves in the third quarter. Bradley gave up six second-chance points in the frame and was outrebounded 14-7. Belmont opened up a 20-point lead late in the quarter and never looked back.

Despite the loss, Bradley showed flashes of offensive potential. Caroline Waite scored 15 points on 6-14 shooting and sophomore guard Alex Rouse added 11.

The Braves’ next step is putting it all together for four quarters.

“I really liked the things we did today offensively,” Popovec-Goss said. “I think we had a really good defensive effort as well. This was a really good team to compete with. They played in the NCAA tournament last year and took Tennessee down to the wire. I’m really pleased with our output today.”

The Braves will get another shot to end their losing streak against Missouri State on Friday, Feb. 10th at Renaissance Coliseum.

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