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Michigan trip prepares women’s basketball for the season ahead

The women’s basketball team officially opened its 2019-20 season on the road the first time since 2016-17 with a trip through Michigan. Led by native Michigander and head coach Andrea Gorski, The Braves beat Oakland on Friday and fell to the University of Michigan on Sunday.

The Braves had plenty of support on the road, however, as junior forward Emily Marsh’s family and the Petree sisters’ extended family were at both contests.

“It was really fun, it was amazing to have so many people at the games,” sophomore guard Lasha Petree said. “A lot of my family flew out from California and down south for the games. I couldn’t fit them all on the list [so they had to pay to watch].”

Petree could not recall how many of her friends and family were in attendance to watch her score 37 points in 76 minutes of play over the weekend.

The Braves took down the Golden Grizzlies 74-58 by shooting 45 percent from the field and tallying 20 points at the free throw line. They held Oakland to 37 percent shooting, 20 percent from beyond the arc and only allowed eight chances from the charity stripe.

Gorski said the team’s ability to win the rebound battle and share the ball in the second half was the determining factor.

“Offensively, we were just out of sync especially in the first half,” Gorski said. “In the second half we moved the ball and made that extra pass and were able to get easy layups. [The game] showed our team the importance of a good defensive effort and moving the ball from side to side.”

Bradley led 26-23 at the half, but in the third quarter it was a different story. Bradley tried to feed senior forward Chelsea Brackmann, who Gorski said is rusty due to a stomach condition, immediately out of the break. She converted two of four field goal attempts in a three-minute span.

With 6:37 remaining in the quarter Petree hit her first 3-pointer of the contest. After that, the Braves did not look back.

“Lasha just came out and hit some threes which gave everyone some confidence,” Gorski said.

Helping the Braves slam the door was junior guard Gabi Haack, who scored all of her 13 points in the second half.

On Sunday, the Braves played at the 12,707 seat Crisler Center, home of the No. 24 Wolverines, and fell 77-57. Bradley struggled with Michigan’s length. Michigan’s average team height is 6-foot and all starters were 6-feet or taller. Just four of the Braves 13 players are over 6 feet tall.

“Their height bothered us,” Gorski said. “We just didn’t feel like we could attack against them because they were taller than us at every position. We needed to be a bit more crafty inside.”

Bradley shot 28 percent in the first half and trailed 38-21 at halftime. The Braves made six of 10 3-point attempts in the third quarter to cut the lead to 11 early in the fourth. Each Wolverine netted at least one field goal while only one Bradley bench player converted from the field the entire game.

Michigan finished 11-23 from beyond the arc and Gorski said she wasn’t expecting the Big-Ten power to do so.

“Our game plan was to take their inside game away and they had some players hit 3s that don’t normally,” Gorski said. “They had some kids step up, outside the scouting report.”

She also said the team reverted to “AAU style basketball” once the lead was stretched to 10 points.

“We started to try to go one-on-one,” Gorski said. “You can’t do that against good teams because you need your teammates to get you open, we got away from that and that’s why we are going to spend a lot of time watching the Michigan [film before our next game].”

The Braves won’t just breakdown short segments but rather the entire game. Gorski said the team can learn from the defeat as it prepares them for tough opponents down the road including nationally ranked MVC foes Missouri State and Drake.

“It’s huge how much [Michigan] prepares us,” Gorski said. “They’re a very good team. They are big, move the ball well, are efficient scorers, have great inside and outside shooters, [play a] 6-foot point guard, have dynamic scorers off the bench and a great freshman post player off the bench.”

Bradley will host Eureka College, a Division III school, at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Renaissance Coliseum. The Braves play Western Illinois Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Macomb.

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