Coming off of a last-second win versus Central Michigan, Bradley women’s basketball was back home in a tightly contested game Thursday night against Loyola. In their second straight game without head coach Kate Popovec-Goss, Bradley proved they are resilient, but fell short in overtime 67-62.
In her absence, the team has had to come together and play harder than ever.
“We all have our roles that we stay in,” assistant coach Ollie Goss said. “We were always a collaborative unit. I don’t think it has changed anything. It’s probably made us closer.”
Freshman guard Halli Poock led the Braves, pouring in 16 points off the bench on 6-13 shooting. Poock played great offensively against Loyola, but was arguably more impressive on the defensive side of the ball.
Poock entered the game late in the first quarter and instantly made an impact. The freshman hounded the Ramblers’ guards, drawing three charges and collecting two steals.
When being recruited to Bradley, Poock was not known for her defensive prowess, but since joining the team her coaches have instilled a new mindset.
“Halli is a kid from Iowa, and they’re not known for their defense,” Goss said. “She came out today and drew three charges. She’s a pesky defender. She’s able to stay in front of quicker guards. Staying in front of people and being able to defend is something she’s worked on in practice.”
After playing 10 minutes in the game against Central Michigan, Poock received 27 minutes Thursday night. Despite being one of the youngest members of the team, Poock was ready for her opportunity.
“I’ve been trying to be what the team needs,” Poock said. “Sometimes, it’s not playing that much. Today, I brought energy when we needed it. It translated well.”
HALLI POOCK pic.twitter.com/MC8jlEhhHa— Bradley WBB (@BradleyWBB) November 12, 2023
The game did not start well for the Braves. In the first quarter, Bradley struggled to knock down shots, shooting 4-15 from the field and 0-6 from three.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bradley allowed Loyola to get open looks that the Ramblers capitalized on. Loyola opened the game on a 9-2 run and won the quarter 15-8.
The second quarter was a completely different story. The Braves increased their defensive pressure and energy. The effort on defense directly translated to easier looks. In the second quarter alone, the Braves generated seven points off of turnovers.
“We looked to get turnovers and deflections,” Goss said. “We got out in transition after the turnovers we forced. We think getting out in transition is more of the culture of this team offensively.”
After allowing the Ramblers to shoot 58% in the opening quarter, the Braves allowed 10 points on 33% shooting in the second frame. Going into halftime, Bradley trailed 25-21.
The second half started eerily similar to the first, as Loyola came out hot. The Ramblers hit their first six shots and knocked down free throws. Loyola started the quarter on an 8-2 run led by veterans Sam Galanopoulos and Sitori Tanin, who combined for 50 of Loyola’s 67 points.
“[Galanopoulos and Tanin] had a good game when we played Loyola last year,” Goss said. “Sam got a lot of penetration into the key. She shot 14 free throws. Satori was dominant in the post. Her pivots in the post are really good. We focused on trying to stay down and not foul. They used their experience tonight against us.”
After the initial run from Loyola to start the second half, the Braves responded with their own. Bradley went on a 13-7 run that lasted over four minutes. Sophomore guard Reagan Barkema led the charge, scoring seven points down the stretch. Despite the offensive explosion, the Braves trailed 45-41 after three.
A THREE from Kaylen sends us into OVERTIME pic.twitter.com/2M1MAt7vZI— Bradley WBB (@BradleyWBB) November 17, 2023
In the fourth quarter, Loyola came out swinging and took a seven point lead with 4:30 left. The tide would change at the four-minute mark due to huge plays from Poock and junior forward Kaylen Nelson.
Poock started the comeback off with a mid-range pull-up followed by a three a few possessions later, cutting the lead to three. After some stellar defense, Nelson cut the lead to one with a layup with 47 seconds left.
The end of the fourth was chaotic.
Down 55-54 with 32 seconds left, junior guard Alex Rouse stole the ball, leading to a timeout from acting head coach Armelia Horton. On the ensuing possession, Nelson turned the ball over and fouled Loyola guard Alyssa Fisher.
After the free throws, Bradley trailed 57-54 with 17 seconds left and called a timeout to draw up a play. With the ball in the Braves’ court, Nelson came off of a screen and hit a three to tie the game.
In overtime, the Braves executed offensively but shots would not fall. Bradley started the extra period 0-4 from the field and could not recover.
The Braves fell to 1-2 with the loss but can be proud of the effort and fight they showed throughout the game.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Goss said. “We were close. We told our team not to be disappointed. We fought the whole game and we need to continue to fight. This is a long season. It’s only game three of 30.”