Coming into Evansville on Saturday, Bradley women’s basketball (6-15, 2-8 MVC) was on a four-game losing streak.
If they wanted to end that slump, doing it against an Aces team that was winless in the Valley was the perfect opportunity.
The Braves seized that opportunity and took care of the Aces 79-72, as freshman Halli Poock led Bradley in points with 26 on the evening. Joining the freshman was junior Alex Rouse, who contributed 15 of her own. Rouse also recorded 10 rebounds which gave her a double-double, her first of the season.
Braves head coach Kate Popovec-Goss had glowing things to say about her junior guard.
“Before the game I had a conversation with her. I’m like ‘Alex like, you just need to go and be Alex Rouse,’” Popovec-Goss said. “She was a beast on both ends of the floor and her ability to rebound the basketball at her size. Alex isn’t very big, she’s just tough and athletic. She can put the ball in the hoop in bunches.”
In the first quarter, both teams were neck-and-neck. They traded baskets to the tune of four lead changes in the first nine minutes of action. The largest lead of the frame belonged to the Braves, who held a 16-12 cushion heading into the second quarter.
As with the first frame, the second started with both teams trading buckets in an offensive spectacle. This was when Rouse proved her worthiness on the defensive end, recording two steals to go along with a blocked shot.
“I think really where she’s starting to help us in tremendous ways is defensively,” Popovec-Goss said. “She registered [three] steals and she is just a beast. She is a huge part of our game plan, I love coaching her and she’s got a tremendous motor.”
Going into halftime, the Braves held a 32-28 lead over the Aces.
Both offenses exploded in the third frame. The Braves held a 13-point lead at one point, but a sneaky Aces team did not back down and ended the quarter with only a five-point deficit, 64-59.
In the third quarter specifically, the Braves shot 13-15 from the free throw line, a mark that the team can look back on as the deciding factor of the game.
“We got stops when it did matter and we made free throws down the stretch and found a way to get it done,” Popovec-Goss said.
“[My teammates and I] were getting tips and hitting free throws in crunch time at the end of the game,” Rouse said.
In the final quarter, the Braves never surrendered their lead to the Aces. Evansville cut the deficit to one-possession at certain points, but Bradley stayed resilient. The Braves finished the last two minutes of the game on a 6-0 run to earn a conference win.
This win was a big one for a Braves program in the midst of a rebuild. Every Valley program knows that these conference wins don’t come easy.
“It was a good win,” Rouse said. “We have been struggling the past few years and to get this win against Evansville, it was good.”
“This team has been through everything,” Popovec-Goss said. “For us to be able to already have two wins in the league going into the month of February I think gave our kids a lot of confidence just to know that we can compete in this league and that we’re really heading in the right direction.”
Up next, the Braves head into a rematch against Northern Iowa on Saturday.