The women’s basketball team has three games remaining on its non-conference slate. The 7-1 Braves are playing aggressively and seeing success.
Over Thanksgiving weekend Bradley battled and beat two Atlantic-10 members in George Mason and Richmond on a neutral floor in South Carolina. Last night, Bradley beat North Dakota State 70-64 led by a career-high 30 points from sophomore Lasha Petree at Renaissance Coliseum.
The team had a combined a six point margin of victory in the Coastal Carolina Thanksgiving Tournament. On Friday, the team beat George Mason 61-59 thanks to an inbound pass from 13.4 point scorer junior guard Gabi Haack, who did not score in the contest, to junior forward Nyjah White who found senior forward Chelsea Brackmann for a layup as time expired.
On Sunday, Bradley beat Richmond 61-57 to win the tournament. However, head coach Andrea Gorski said her team lacked the necessary energy for the 11:30 a.m. start, being outscored 15-4 in the first quarter. That energy picked up soon after.
“[The third quarter] was some of the best basketball we have played, especially on the defensive end,” Gorski said. “I’m just happy that we can claw our way back from behind and don’t give up, we keep fighting, but we gotta do a better job of coming out with the right level of energy.”
On Thursday, the Braves allowed the Bison to shoot 61 percent and went into the locker room at the half tied at 42 apiece. Bradley held its opponent to 27 percent in the second half.
“It was hard for us to get anything inside going and Gabi and Lasha stepped up huge from the perimeter [11-25 from 3-point range],” Gorski said. “Just better team defense the second half, better energy and just did what we had to do to win the game.”
In the tournament, Brackmann picked up two double-doubles, and moved into second in Bradley history with her 33rd career rebounding game. She also ranks second all-time in rebounding with 799 total rebounds.
In South Carolina, she averged 16 points and 12.5 rebounds. She is averaging 22 minutes per game which is back on track with her average of last season, although she missed Thursday’s matchup due to illness.
The physicality of the A-10 teams and East Coast officiating benefited Bradley’s frontcourt which will prepare the Braves for a Missouri Valley Conference that is ranked third nationally in Rankings Power Index (RPI).
“A lot of [George Mason and Richmond’s style of play] is similar to Drake, UNI, Illinois State and Missouri State since they all have very big players,” Brackmann said. “I think playing in these games prepares us for those teams.”
“The Valley is very physical. I think it helps us in that regard in terms of keeping people off the boards,” Gorski said of her team, which has outrebounded opponents by 11.4 in the early going of the season. “[My two concerns before the season] were one; will we be a good defensive team? and two; will we commit to boxing out? I’m happy with where our defense is right now.”
Before the conference season gets underway Jan. 3, Bradley needs to shore up its ball security and make the right passes. The Braves average 18.8 turnovers per game.
“We gotta get them down especially with [sophomore guard] Lasha [Petree] and Nyjah [White],” Gorski said. “They are never going to be super low because of the style of play and let them run up and down, but we gotta get them down to 15 or less. I think we are really working hard to share the ball this year.
Petree, the team’s leading scorer, has struggled with turnovers this season averaging 4.5 per contest.
Lasha is getting a lot of turnovers because she is trying to free her teammates up for shots … She needs to understand the flow of the game a little bit better, like, don’t drive to be a passer.”
Gorski said that she’s excited for MVC play and believes four members have a chance to make a postseason tournament.
“You see something like that and you just stay focused on getting better everyday and there’s going to be so many teams in the mix. It’s not like the only way we can get in is winning the Valley tournament,” Gorski said
Bradley will host Jackson State Tuesday at 12 p.m. at Renaissance Coliseum for the annual Field Trip Day that is expected to draw 2,900 fans.