Bradley women’s basketball stepped up down the stretch to spoil Wright State’s season opener and score a 66-61 road victory.
The Braves were led by a stout effort from senior Nyjah White, who tallied a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. White was 7-12 from the field and finished tied with classmate Gabi Haack for the team lead in points.
“I thought for the most part, she took good shots,” Bradley head coach Andrea Gorski said. “I’m glad that she started trying to get to the rim a little more and not settle so much with [the] outside jumper. And then I thought defensively she did a nice job staying out of foul trouble for us.”
Defense played a major role in the victory. The Braves held the Raiders to a mere 33.8 shooting percentage from the field, a mark that decreased to just 31.6 percent in the final frame.
“We want to take the drive and the paint touches away and force them to try to beat us from the outside,” Gorski said. “I thought we did a poor job [in the] first half of knowing personnel and letting them go to their strengths and I thought we did a better job in the second half of taking away their strengths.”
Free throws – or more accurately the prospect of getting to the free-throw line, were key for the Braves for the second straight game. This time, the freebies favored Bradley down the stretch.
After trailing Wright State in free throw attempts 17-6 in the fourth quarter, the Braves got to work and both teams wound up with 17 attempts at the game’s conclusion. Haack and White combined for 5 points at the stripe, but it was junior Lasha Petree’s 7-8 effort at the charity stripe that led the way.
But it wasn’t just the Bradley free throws that played well for the Braves; keeping Wright State away from the line late in the game was also a key reason for the win.
“We played a lot of zone today, more zone than we’ve played in the last four years,” Gorski said. “But I thought we did a better job of taking the drive away into the paint, knowing their personnel a little bit better there late in the game to keep them out of the paint, because when they get in there they’re really tough to defend.”
Petree finished the game with 12 points, the first time this season that she failed to reach the 20-point threshold.
The win was not a linear one for the Braves, who opened the game relatively slowly. At the end of the first quarter, the Braves were down 18-8 before battling back to take a 33-30 lead with two minutes left in the second quarter.
“It’s, you know, same story from the first three games,” Gorski said. “We can’t give up second chance points. I think [in the first half] they had 12 second chance points. So just getting it after the boards a little bit and moving the ball better on offense … we started moving the ball from side to side especially against their zone. We had more success.”
The Braves and Raiders swapped the lead several times early in the third quarter, but the Braves never trailed after taking a 42-39 lead with 6:41 remaining in the third frame.
Bradley maintained a usually comfortable lead thereafter, though the Raiders did make it a three-point game with seven seconds left as they turned to fouling to stop the clock. A pair of Lasha Petree free throws iced the game thereafter, and the Braves now sit at 2-1 on the year.
Bradley will play Saint Louis on Sunday, with tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m.