It took one minute and 44 seconds for the ball to fall through the net, but once it did, the Braves did not look back. Bradley beat Division II foe University of Illinois-Springfield 74-62 on Sunday at Renaissance Coliseum in an exhibition matchup.
Bradley will now look toward officially opening the regular season in Michigan today at 6 p.m. versus Horizon League member Oakland and Big-Ten No. 24 Michigan, Sunday at 1 p.m.
To be successful this weekend, sophomore Lasha Petree said the team needs to compete from tipoff to final buzzer.
“This game is going to give us a lot of little things to work on before we go there,” Petree said.
According to head coach Andrea Gorski, the most important of those things is rebounding and boxing out. Illinois-Springfield took 72 shots from the field but only converted 30.6 percent and missed the rim and backboard completely multiple times.
The Braves were out-rebounded until the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.
“Springfield was taking some unexpected shots early in the game. The rest [of the rebounds were] because we just weren’t boxing out,” Gorski said. “[After the game], we talked about that we gotta do the little things if we are going to be great … that’s what you want to take away from an exhibition game and now we are going to pound that into their heads.”
The referees sounded their whistles the entire game, calling 22 personal fouls on the Braves to the Prairie Stars’ 11. Gorski was incensed with a referee in the fourth quarter, after he called back-to-back fouls on players she thought were playing strong defense with their hands up.
“If that’s how they are going to call fouls then oof,” Gorski said. “[Springfield] was running five out, trying to draw fouls. We need a counter so that we can have five out and drive to the basket and see if they’ll call the same thing.”
Although Illinois-Springfield only converted 13 of its 20 free throw attempts, Bradley only made four of its six total chances from the charity stripe.
The Braves were led by junior Nyjah White, who nearly posted a triple-double. She finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, playing the power forward position most of the game.
Gorski said this season would see White break out and become a larger contributor for the Braves on both ends.
“She’s really evolving and seeing how much worth she brings [to the team],” Gorski said. “The best stat for her is that she had one foul. That was a big problem last year, trying to keep her on the floor.”
White played 31 minutes, the second most of any player. She got out ahead of the defense multiple times leading to assists and quick, easy layups.
“I was just playing basketball,” White said. “It’s stuff we do at practice, if I see my teammate wide open I can kick it to them. [Today], it was easy to read who I could pass it to and what they were going to do from there.”
The Braves shot 44.3 percent from the field and eight for 18 from behind the arc. It knocked down shot after shot and were 18 for 33 or 55 percent at halftime. Lasha Petree led all scorers with 23 points on 10 for 16 shooting.
White, at 5-foot-11-inches, was able to connect with the 6-foot Petree on a few occasions on the fast break. Petree converted on three trailing 3-point attempts all assisted by White.
White said she is looking to push the ball and find the open shooter if the defense stops her from attacking the basket. Bradley is a running team and that’s how Gorski recruits.
“I’m always out for the races so whoever wants to run with it just goes from there,” White said.
In exhibition games, coaches limit minutes and try to get everyone involved. Every player on Bradley’s roster attempted a field goal. Gorski said that was the goal.
“[Exhibitions] allow us to experiment with different lineups and different sets and get everyone in,” Gorski said.
Preseason All-MVC First-Team selection senior forward Chelsea Brackmann was limited to 12 minutes in the contest, but Gorski said she will be ready to go when the season officially opens tonight at 6 in Rochester, Michigan.