Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bradley Women's Basketball suffers first loss of season at Illinois

Gabi Haack shoots a free throw back on Nov. 10 against Omaha. The freshman from Elk River, Minnesota finished with 11 points for the Braves against Illinois. FILE PHOTO / MIKE ROEDELL

Champaign, IL - It was the first road game of the 2017-18 season for the Bradley Women's Basketball team (2-1) Saturday afternoon as they traveled to Champaign and the State Farm Center to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1).

The game was back and forth to start, with the Illini not taking a double-digit lead until they got a layup from Ali Andrews to put the hosts ahead of Bradley, 17-7. The Braves then stormed back, going on a 14-0 run, capped by a three from Gabi Haack, and forcing a timeout by Illinois Head Coach Nancy Fahey. Although the Illini were able to finish the quarter on a comeback of their own, the two teams would finish the first quarter tied, 22-22.

In the second quarter, the Illini started with the lead less than a minute in, and maintained that lead through halftime. Illinois got their lead up to 10, but Bradley was able to string together some points just before halftime, and the Illini would be ahead by six by quarter's end, 40-34. The Braves were balanced in the scoring column after 20 minutes, with Nyjah White leading the way with 6 points, while Danielle Brewer and Shunseere Kent both tallied 5 points.

The third quarter was tight throughout, with the largest lead for either side was a 5-point lead for the Illini roughly 30 seconds into the quarter. Despite the close game, the Braves were never really able to gain any momentum, and they would head into the final quarter of play with a 74-62 deficit.

Bradley just wasn't able to stop the Illini in the fourth quarter, as multiple Braves would wind up in foul trouble, and the Illini would  shoot 7-8 on free throws. The lead stayed with the hosts, even getting up to 14 after two free throws by Brandi Beasley. The Braves would end up losing their first game of the season to the Fighting Illini, 74-62. Kent finished with a team-high 13 points, while two other newcomers, Haack and White, scoring 11 and 10 points respectively.

After the game, Braves Head Coach Andrea Gorski thought that things had fallen apart late.

"I thought on the last Illinois run, we panicked. Instead of staying within our system, we took some bad shots. We didn't trust one another."

In regards to never getting control of the game, Gorski thinks it's all mental.

"We've got to be mentally tough to change momentum. I thought we did a good job of that until the fourth quarter. We went on a run, then we were trying to play 1-on-1 basketball."

Headed into this game, one of the keys for the Braves would be limiting the offensive capabilities of Alex Wittinger of Illinois. The Illini junior finished with 13 points.

"We had Dani (Brewer) on her for a little bit, and she shot over her. I thought Nyjah (White) did a pretty good job on her. She just got herself into a little bit of foul trouble and we couldn't play her as much as we wanted," Gorski said.

Gorski thought the game was "winnable" and came away "very disappointed" with the result.

The Braves will have a slight break in games, with the next contest not coming until Friday, November 24th, a 1:00 pm tipoff from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. They'll play the Nicholls State Colonels as part of the SEMO Classic.

Braves Statistical Leaders: 
Field Goals | Gabi Haack & Nyjah White (4-7)
3's | Gabi Haack (3-6)
Free Throws | Shunseere Kent (5-8)
Rebounds | Chelsea Brackmann (10)
Assists | Brewer/Lawson/Kent/Brackmann/Marsh (2)
Blocks | Chelsea Brackmann (2)
Steals | Anneke Schlueter & Chelsea Brackmann (1)
Points | Shunseere Kent (13)

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