Bradley’s women’s basketball team (3-8) has been through the gauntlet as of late and the Braves were unable to overcome difficult circumstances over the weekend, falling 74-73 at Evansville on Friday and 73-57 at Indiana State on Sunday.
The Braves have sorely missed Gabi Haack, the program’s all-time leading scorer, after she suffered a season-ending ACL injury on New Year’s Day against Illinois State. Including its most recent road trip to Indiana, Bradley has played eight of their last nine games on the road. Adding to the list of hardships, the Braves have had four games cancelled due to COVID-19 since their last win on Nov. 19 against Wisconsin.
WHAT: Friday’s clash against the Purple Aces was neck-and-neck for the entire second half after Bradley jumped out to a 13-7 lead following the first quarter. Heading into the third quarter, both teams were knotted at 53 with the lead switching hands seemingly every possession down the stretch. Evansville took the lead for good after a 3-pointer from Abby Feit with 1:43 left in the game and Myia Clark sealed the game with a pair of free throws.
Sunday’s matineé against Indiana State saw a different theme, as the Sycamores went on a 16-0 run in the first quarter after Braves’ junior forward Daija Powell tied the game at eight apiece. The Braves went on a 7-0 run early in the third quarter to close the gap to 43-33 but Indiana State responded with a 10-2 run and Bradley was unable to cut the deficit to single digits for the rest of the game.
WHO: Bradley senior guard Chloe Rice scored a career high 11 points against the Sycamores and along with recording career highs in rebounds (6) and assists (4) versus Evansville. Freshman guard Caroline Waite led the Braves in scoring in both games with 18 and 15 points respectively.
A pair of Purple Aces reached the 20-point threshold, with Feit scoring 13 of her 20 points in the first half before Clark took over with 17 of her 25 points in the second half. Indiana State’s Marie Hunter posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior forward Sierra Morrow (6.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg) of the Braves sat out in both games, although head coach Andrea Gorski hopes to have the Seward Community College transfer back in the lineup for Bradley’s next game. The Braves added freshman manager Katy Wade to the active roster with Haack, Morrow and Sasha Koenig all dealing with injuries. Wade earned minutes on defensive possessions for the Braves down the stretch against Evansville.
WHERE: Bradley played it’s eight of their last nine games on the road and have yet to earn a victory someplace other than Renaissance Coliseum this season. However, the Braves will play six of their next eight games at home, beginning by hosting Loyola Chicago on Thursday.
WHEN: The baskets did not fall easy early on against Evansville, as both teams started the game 5-23 from the field. The Braves played keep away with their slim lead in the first half until a layup by Elly Morgan gave the hosts their first advantage two minutes before halftime. Following a triple from Waite with 42 seconds left in the game that cut the Purple Aces’ lead to 72-70, Bradley forced a stop on the next possession, only to give up an offensive rebound which forced the Braves to begin fouling.
Trailing 41-24 at halftime against Indiana State, a trio of Braves guards (Waite, Rice and Tatum Koenig) helped mount a 9-2 run to start the third quarter. The Sycamores scored three layups in the next 75 seconds to cancel out Bradley’s momentum.
WHY: Gorski on Chloe Rice: “She’s a gritty kid and we need that grit. She always gives maximum effort, her teammates love her and she’s going to give us everything she has out there and it’s nice for her to see the ball go in the bucket today.”
Gorski on the team’s toughness: “Tatum [Koenig] is always going to play tough. We’re bringing the toughness; we’ve taken more charges these last two games than we have with probably all other games combined. We need our bigs to play tougher but I think [Veronika Roberts] and Isis [Fitch] did today. We can’t be as young as we are and not play tough.”
Gorski on how the Braves are handling a difficult stretch: “We have a great attitude, our locker room is strong, they’re culture-strong.”
Gorski on manager-turned-player Katy Wade: “She’s honestly a phenomenal defender. In practice, she’s all over us and we were hoping she could get a pick-off there. She’s very quick and we’re kind of short on the quickness [and] athleticism aspect right now.”
Gorski explaining what contributed to Sunday’s loss versus Indiana State: “Every team in this conference is loaded with juniors and seniors and fifth-year seniors so we’re obviously going to have our work cut out for us and we understand that the intangibles have to be there every day. We have to make free throws, we have to rebound and we have to have toughness and we had one out of those three today.”
Gorski on what she’s learned during the Braves’ losing streak: “I love this team. No one’s pointing fingers. No one’s putting their head down. They want to win and I love that and I found that out in the last weeks with everything. We’re bummed with some of the adversity but sometimes it comes more in waves than other years. It’s how you handle it and how you bounce back from it and treat every day.”