Bradley did not face much adversity in Friday night’s win over Southern Illinois. The same cannot be said for Saturday’s 80-68 win over the Salukis, wherein the Braves recovered from a tough second quarter to bounce back in the second half.
If Friday’s win was attributed to the bench, Saturday evening belonged to the starting five. The Braves had three starters – seniors Gabi Haack and Nyjah White and junior Lasha Petree – score 20 or more points.
“Today we capitalized on our ball movement,” White said. “We did a really good job with that yesterday, so [we] made sure to make a better effort at it today. And then just following our strengths on the floor and converting.”
Thanks to a strong effort from the field, Bradley charged out to a 23-13 lead by the end of the first frame. The Braves connected on 9 of their first 13 shots, while the Salukis were held to just 5 of their 14 first quarter attempts. Petree paced the offense with 10 early points.
With 6:01 left in the second quarter, Petree drove in for a layup that allowed her to become the fifth Bradley player to reach 1,100 career points as a junior. She also passed Chelsea Brackmann for 14th on Bradley’s all-time scoring list. Yet the second quarter largely belonged to the Salukis, who cranked it up to outscore the Braves 26-18.
While the Braves led 41-39 at halftime, it seemed to stand in contrast to Friday’s 40-26 halftime advantage.
“I thought this was kind of like a heavyweight match,” Gorski said. “They gave us a punch, we punched them back … this was a game of like many runs. [I] just thought, you know, the team that came out in the second half, that had the longest run, is probably gonna win the game and thankfully that was us.”
Ultimately, the Braves came out of the gates at a torrid pace to begin the third quarter and never looked back. The Braves shot 63.8 percent from the field throughout the entire game – the best mark in Renaissance Coliseum history – and connected on a blistering 71.4 percent of their shots in the third quarter.
“Proud of our team for fighting through,” Gorski said. “We shot the ball extremely well today. That really helps, we got to the free throw line a little bit more, which we needed to do today, get a little more aggressive.”
Bradley had increased its lead to 56-50 when junior Chloe Rice converted a four-point play with 1:09 left in the third quarter. The Braves never looked back after that, increasing a season-long winning streak to three games and claiming a share of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“The ball was falling, and we just kept rolling with it,” Petree said. We had a stretch there where we were turnover happy there for a second but we figured it out and came through. Chloe with the and-one three in the corner, that got me hyped.”
The Salukis were led by a 17-point effort from Mackenzie Silvey and an additional 15 points from Payton McCallister.
Bradley will face Evansville on the road on Jan. 15 on ESPN3.