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Redbirds continue conference domination; sweep series against the Braves

Women’s basketball closes out a huddle. Photo by Jenna Zeise.

“Illinois State’s a really good team, they’re number one in our conference for a reason.”

Braves’ head coach Kate Popovec-Goss’ words rang true Thursday night as the Redbirds showed why they’re arguably the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), routing the Braves 84-52. 

Illinois State (16-5, 10-1 MVC) started the game on a 19-0 run.

Bradley (3-19, 0-11) had one of their most troubling quarters of the season to open play in Normal, Ill. The Braves went 1-12 from the floor and 0-6 from beyond the arc in the opening frame. The missed shots allowed ISU numerous open threes to jumpstart their lead.

“We put too much pressure on our offense to try to bail us out of that game,” Popovec-Goss said. “Defensively, we just didn’t start locked in. We’ve got to be better than that.”

Bradley seemed to wake up late in the first quarter. Sophomore guard Alex Rouse made the first field goal of the game for the Braves with 1:10 to go in the frame.

“We just couldn’t get started,” Rouse said. “We couldn’t get a rhythm going, which caused us to not hit as many shots as we normally would.”

The Braves showed signs of improvement in the second quarter. Illinois State only outscored Bradley 21-20 in the following frame after connecting on three shots from deep. Despite playing better in the second, the Braves trailed 44-24 going into halftime.

Sophomore guard Nika Dorsey walks the board. Photo by Jenna Zeise.

In the second half, the Braves continued to play better on the offensive end, scoring eighteen points and getting production from their younger players. Sophomore guard Nika Dorsey showed flashes of offensive potential in the third quarter and finished with five points and four assists in just 20 minutes.

Popovec-Goss thought the offensive performance in the final three quarters was a positive to take away from Thursday’s loss.

“I actually liked a lot of things we did,” Popovec-Goss said. “I think Alex Rouse was spectacular, and I really like what we’re getting from Nika Dorsey. Both of those kids can create at a high level. I thought Caroline [Waite] played very much within herself. Her shot selection was very strong and she facilitated for her teammates.”

Bradley kept up with the Redbirds on the offensive end, but could not string together enough stops to make the comeback. Rouse led the team with 12 points while forward Daija Powell added 10 points and six boards. Sophomore guard Caroline Waite worked through defensive pressure to finish with eight points.

The Braves losing streak extends to 14 ahead of their next game against Belmont. The preseason favorites will arrive in Peoria Sunday as Popovec-Goss’ squad will be looking for a momentous upset at home.

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