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Lack of defensive intensity plays a big role in Braves loss to Murray State

Isis Fitch vs Northern Iowa. Photo courtesy of Bradley women’s basketball/Twitter.

In the first ever match-up between Bradley and  Murray State in women’s basketball, the Racers took an early lead and never looked back, grabbing the 83-48 win.

Missouri Valley Conference newcomer Murray State (11-2, 4-2 MVC) has proven to be a handful for the MVC veterans especially at home, remaining undefeated in the MVC while on home turf.

After a tight contest against Illinois State at Renaissance Coliseum in Peoria, the Braves (3-14,  0-6 MVC) dropped their eighth road game of the season.

“From the jump I did not feel that our intensity was there, especially on the defensive end,” Braves head coach Kate Popovec-Goss said. “It was a disappointing effort coming off a sound performance on Thursday.” 

In the first quarter, junior Isis Fitch opened up the scoring for the Braves with a jumper. However, the Racers countered with a 9-0 run to start-up their first quarter performance. Murray State shot 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first frame, but Bradley didn’t stay far behind, shooting 43 percent and 33 percent from the field and beyond the arc. The Braves trailed 22-13 after the first period but the deficit only got bigger from there.

Murray State picked up the pace in the second quarter with Macey Turley behind the wheel, making all three of her shots beyond the arc. The Racers picked up a lead of 17 in the closing minute of the first half and kept it that way heading into the locker room up 44-27. 

“At the half [the message] was to get better on the defensive end and get some stops,” junior forward Daija Powell said. “It didn’t matter how much we scored, we had to stop the other team from scoring.”

The Braves came out of the locker room with a 3-minute scoring drought to chip away at. With a bigger emphasis on tidying up the defense, the Braves shot 29 percent from the field and couldn’t register any of their four shots from 3-point range. The Racers showed their confidence and intensity by shooting 54 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line.

While the Racers kept feeding their lead, the Braves struggled to get any consistent run with only eight points going on the board in the third. Racer Hanah McKay notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds as Murray State ended the third quarter with a score of 64-35.

“They play a very unique style of basketball, very post-centric, a slower paced game,” Popovec-Goss commented on the Racers style of play. “Very deliberate and disciplined.” 

Katelyn Young and Turley led the Racers with 24 and 20 points, respectively. 

Daija Powell grabs hold of the ball. Photo by Jenna Zeise

Leading the Braves in the attack was Powell, who registered 14 points and four rebounds. Following close behind was sophomore Alex Rouse with 13 points, six rebounds, and one assist. The junior duo of Ruba Abo Hashesh and Isis Fitch had six and five points respectively.

Someone not on the scoresheet was sophomore Caroline Waite as the consistent shining light of this Braves side was snuffed out by the Racers as they kept her scoreless.

“It was an off day for her,” Popovec-Goss said. “She got a lot of good looks, they just didn’t fall and sometimes you just have off days.”

The Braves come back home to Renaissance Coliseum as they host Evansville and Indiana State, both teams with just two wins in the MVC so far.

“As a team we have to come together and lock down on the defensive end,” Powell said. “I think we’re not going to win too many games if we let teams score 80 some points.”

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