The Bradley women’s basketball team (19-4, 10-2 in MVC) has now won 17 straight games at Renaissance Coliseum dating back to last season. Friday and Sunday were no different for the Braves as they ran through Valparaiso 90-65 and Loyola 71-50.
Bradley held its opponents to 33.6 percent shooting while converting on 51.3 percent from the field itself. It also recorded 17 more assists on the weekend than the Chicago-land travel partners.
Head coach Andrea Gorski said she was pleased with the team play as eight of the 11 players that saw game action recorded at least four points.
Bradley sports a -1.3 assist to turnover ratio and had not been positive in back-to-back games since Jan. 24 and 26 when the Iowa contingent of the Missouri Valley Conference visited Peoria. Fittingly, the Braves are on the road to face Drake Thursday at 6 p.m. and UNI Saturday at 2 p.m.
Every game is big for the second-place Braves, but this week’s tilts with the third and fourth place squads are key.
“We’ve got to get ready quickly. Not a lot of rest [this week],” Gorski said. “We just gotta have a good focused week of practice and still stay committed to the defensive side of things.”
Defensive intensity allowed the Braves to pull away at home in both games. They asserted themselves from the jump, had lulls in the middle two quarters and stretched the lead in the final quarter of each game. Bradley outscored the Crusaders and Ramblers by a combined 15 points in the first quarter and 16 in the fourth.
Three Braves scored in double figures each game. Senior forward Chelsea Brackmann led all scorers in both games with 24 Friday and 20 Sunday, while sophomore guard Lasha Petree poured in 22 Friday and junior guard Gabi Haack recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds Sunday. Junior forward Nyjah White joined Brackmann in double figures with 15 and 17 points, respectively.
Brackmann, who had been scoring 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game going into the weekend, tallied her 36th career double-double Sunday after falling one rebound short Friday. She is now tied for first in school history with Sonya Harris who played 2007-10.
She’s feeling better after playing through ulcerative colitis this season, although tired, she made her presence known. Her last double-double came Jan. 24. The captain said she sees her role to help her teammates.
“It just happened to be my weekend,” Brackmann said. “I’ve just been feeling pretty good body wise and mentally as well. I haven’t really changed anything [in the past week].”
Brackmann also hit her first 3-pointer since December 5, 2017 with 5:38 remaining in the Loyola game. She was open, so she figured she might as well shoot and knocked it down. Gorski said that Brackmann refers to the left elbow extended as “her spot.”
“It was good to shoot the ball well and see Chelsea get back in the flow of the offense,” Gorski said.
The Braves are sharing the rock, the 36 assists across the two games rank as the best since bottom of the MVC standings programs Evansville and Indiana State visited Peoria Jan. 3 and Jan. 5.
“I thought we skipped the ball well, very unselfish, looking for each other, and that’s what you have to do against [Valpo] that switches the defense,” Gorski said.
Bradley was averaging 15.4 turnovers per game, but on Sunday it only committed 11. The team let Valpo get to the line 31 times Friday night yet only allowed eight chances to Loyola.
“I’m proud of our team’s effort, especially on the defensive end,” Gorski said. “[Loyola] has some kids that really can shoot the ball … When we hit some open shots that really relaxes us a bit. I liked that we took care of the basketball.”
Bradley will look to continue to be unselfish, knock shots at key times and be assertive with the ball when it travels to Iowa.
“It’s a big two games,” Brackmann said. “It’s going to be hard at Drake because they got a lot of fans and they can hit a lot of threes.”