Life on the road isn’t always easy.
Life on the road without your top scorer is even tougher and that was the case for Bradley’s women’s basketball team (3-4) on Monday night in a 62-39 loss at South Dakota.
With freshman guard Caroline Waite (14.0 ppg) staying in Peoria with a non-COVID related illness, the Braves struggled to find their rhythm offensively despite arguably their best defensive showing of the season. The Braves hung with the Coyotes in percentages (31% FG for BU, 37% for SD) but a 32-4 points in the paint advantage kept South Dakota in control for the entire game.
WHO: Coyotes center Hannah Sjerven, who scored 31 in the last matchup between the two squads on Dec. 17, 2020, was held to 12 points this time around but the hosts owned the better supporting cast on Monday. Chloe Lamb added 11 for the Coyotes while Liv Korngable and Grace Larkins both added nine points.
Meanwhile, the Braves were led by Gabi Haack’s 10 points, but no other Brave scored more than six points.
South Dakota, ranked at No. 68 in the NET rankings before the game and a top-40 team by the same metric last year, won 84-68 in the only previous matchup between the Braves and the Coyotes in 2020.
WHAT: Free throws are a team’s best friend when they fall behind, but the Braves only managed five attempts from the line all game, making just two from the stripe. South Dakota forced 17 Bradley turnovers, converting them into 12 points. The Braves mustered three points off only seven Coyotes turnovers. The hosts were able to convert 13 offensive rebounds into 17 second chance points.
The Braves’ loss moves them to 0-4 on the season after starting 3-0; however Bradley has finished above .500 every year that the program has started 3-0.
WHERE: Monday’s game was the fourth in a row for the Braves, their longest stretch away from Renaissance Coliseum in the regular season since 2017. Gorski’s squad was scheduled to host Tulsa on Dec. 1 before the NCAA canceled the contest due to a positive COVID-19 test in the Golden Hurricane’s Tier I personnel. Bradley dropped the previous game of their Dakotas trip against North Dakota State on Saturday, 83-72.
Home court has, quite literally, been the difference between winning and losing for the Braves, at least up to this point. Bradley is 3-0 at home and 0-4 on the road.
WHEN: After a 3-pointer from Braves senior guard Tatum Koenig with just less than three minutes left in the first quarter, South Dakota went on an 8-0 run that spanned into the second quarter. Fellow senior guard Chloe Rice ended the run with a jumper on the Braves’ first possession of the second but the Coyotes responded with a 7-0 run to push their lead to 27-10.
Electing for a drive-and-kick approach on offense, the Braves outshot South Dakota from behind the arc, sinking nine, but the Bradley could not draw within single digits after the first quarter.
WHY: Gorski on the Braves’ defense: “Defensively, I was pretty happy with that; I think that was our best effort this year so far and thought we really grew up on that part of the floor. Yeah, they had points in the paint but 62 points, I would’ve said it would be a close game if we could hold them to 62.”
Gorski on why the team struggled on offense: “The game plan was to get into the paint and kick out and we did that and had some success but again, they were just a very physical team and we couldn’t really move on offense. It was hard for us to run an offense tonight.”
Gorski on the team’s stretch of games away from home: “You want to be able to win on these tough road games. You’re doing this because when we get into [MVC] play, we’re traveling and going to Missouri State, we can feel like ‘Hey, we’ve already done this.’ The whole point of coming out here to face North Dakota State and South Dakota…is to build some toughness and see what we got. You’d certainly like to win the games but you play this type of schedule to get you ready for conference.”
Gorski on two freshmen that made an impact: “Callie Ziebell, she hasn’t been playing much, she held her own out there against some of the best post players she’ll face all season. Sasha Koenig came in and played some solid defense and hit a couple 3’s for us. We had some good things out there but we’ve got to learn how to play when teams don’t let you set screens and take you out of your offense.”