Monday, January 7, 2019

Bradley comeback not enough in OT loss to UNI

The opening tipoff between Bradley and Northern Iowa on Sunday afternoon in Peoria. Turns out, that would not be the game's only jump ball. The Panthers would win in overtime, 81-78. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Peoria, Ill. - Frustration loomed from the 29-point loss to Drake on Friday, but for the Bradley Braves (10-3) (0-2), they had an opportunity to bounce back with a game against the Northern Iowa Panthers (8-6) (1-1) on Sunday at Renaissance Coliseum.

Right away, the Drake and Northern Iowa games could distance themselves. Friday, the Bulldogs took all of 10 minutes to put up 30 points on the scoreboard. It took the first quarter for both Northern Iowa and Bradley to combine for 31 points.

The biggest positive for the Braves was holding the lead for the duration of the first quarter, almost. It wasn't until a three with seven seconds on the clock that Northern Iowa took a lead. It was either tied or a Bradley lead otherwise. The last minute was UNI's, as the Panthers closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to take that aforementioned lead after the first. However, Chelsea Brackmann will tell you that the start overall was a carry-over of emotions from the Drake game.

"We learned our lesson from Drake. It was kind of a punch in the mouth. So, we wanted to come out strong and try to get this W."

Back and forth the Braves and Panthers would go in the second, with the largest lead of the quarter being a mere three points. In fact, the game was never tied. The quarter saw five lead changes. It was even lower-scoring. Neither team seemed to be grabbing momentum. Bradley held a lead with 2:24 to go when Lasha Petree made a layup, but that was turned into a 27-27 halftime tie when Taylor Hagen made a free throw.

That theme seemed to continue into the third quarter, staying within a possession until the midway point, but that's when it started to take a sharp turn towards the Panthers.

A 16-4 run is what followed. From that 37-34 UNI lead at the 4:45 mark of the quarter, the Braves didn't score for two minutes and 41 seconds. That allowed the run that turned a tied game into a 15-point Panther lead with just 10 minutes to go.

It seemed that things were not turning around. The persona that the game had appeared that Bradley would suffer two straight 20+ point losses to in-conference teams. Northern Iowa led by as much as 18 with 8:37 to go. Buckle up for the rest of this one. Chelsea Brackmann thinks getting to points such as this multiple times becomes frustrating, but remains important to stay positive.

"Sometimes we dig ourselves in a hole. There was no doubt in our mind that we could come back from that."

Bradley would respond with a 10 point turnaround with a three from Ellie Spelhaug. It got even closer when a jumper from Chelsea Brackmann, who ended up having what may be one of the best games of her career, pulled the Braves within five, 60-55 to be exact.

Brackmann would come up big again, when her layup made it 66-64 UNI. The junior would not be done with clutch moments in this one. After a foul from the Panthers' Cynthia Wolf, it would put Brackmann at the line, down two, with 15 seconds to go. Sure enough, both free throws would fall and the game was tied 66-66.

The Panthers had a chance to end it in 40 minutes. A jumper from Karli Rucker did not go, and the game was going to overtime.

One may wonder what the difference was between the 29-point loss and forcing overtime. Well, according to Brackmann, it's the 29-point loss itself.

"We were very upset after that game, so we came in with a little chip on our shoulder and that's how we played today."

Bradley took a lead on a jumper from Shunseere Kent just two minutes into overtime, but that would turn out to be the last lead the Braves would have.

As if it didn't appear that this game would come down to the last possession or so, a Brackmann layup made it 80-78 in favor of the Panthers with all of eight seconds on the clock.

A Lasha Petree foul just three seconds later put Rucker at the line. Making both free throws would require a four-point play for Bradley to still tie it up. However, Rucker missed the first free throw and made the second, thus, the Braves still had a chance to tie it with five seconds left.

It was going to come down to one last shot for Bradley to end a long losing streak against Northern Iowa. All it would take is a three to force double overtime. A three was put up by Gabi Haack. It went in. Or did it?

Haack's shot was initially ruled good, which would've tied the game. However, the officials took the safe route and went to the monitor, just to be sure before they went any further. That review did not come back well for the Braves, as lead official Ron Quirk came away from the monitor signaling 'no good'. That would mean the Panthers would escape with a 81-78 road overtime win.

Chelsea Brackmann's game of 22 points and 24 rebounds is impressive. So, as you might imagine, Coach Gorski had plenty to say about it, even calling it "ridiculous". In a good way, of course.

"We thought we could dominate a little bit inside. Chelsea really just took it to them with a lot of confidence. Defensively, she helped out quite a bit. Heck of an effort and a great basketball player."

To go inside the mind of the player can be difficult at times, but Brackmann says the mentality was a big part of how she played on Sunday.

"I don't know. My thought process is just to go as hard as I can for 40 minutes. Just trying to get there and do everything I can to help my team."

A stat worth looking at is the fact that the Panthers went 27-30 from the free throw line by game's end. That's something that Gorski is not pleased with.

"We put them on the line too much. That's a lot of free throws, especially for a visiting team."

In hindsight, Coach Gorski says that if that third quarter 'lull' not happened, things would've been much different.

"Our energy was really low, so we subbed in, got some little high-energy players in there. I think we found some things here today. I just told them we're gonna go on a roll now."

The Braves are off from games for a brief while until a two-game road trip at Evansville on Friday and at Indiana State on Sunday, a series that Gorski refers to as "must win" games, adding that she "think we can play with anyone".

Fast Break Notes:
- The last Bradley home game that went to overtime was on February 21st, 2009. It took place at Illinois Central College's Lorene Ramsey Gymnasium.
- The Braves haven't had an overtime game since they played in two during Coach Gorski's first season (2016-17).
- Brackmann's previous career high in rebounds was 19, set two years ago at Indiana State.
- Sunday's game was the first overtime game in Renaissance Coliseum history
- The 24 rebounds by Brackmann tie the single game all-time record for Bradley. That number is also good for the most single game rebounds by a MVC player since 2009.
- Brackmann's 20-20 game (22 points, 24 rebounds) is just the third time that's happened in Bradley program history.

Bradley Scoring: Brackmann (22), Haack (17), Kent (11), Petree (8), Koenig (6), Lawson (5), Spelhaug (5), White (4)

Bradley Team Stats:
FGs | 27 for 73 (37.0%)
3's | 7 for 24 (29.2%)
FTs | 17 for 22 (77.3%)
Reb | 49
Fls | 21
Ast | 14
TO | 13
Blk | 4
Stl | 5

Bradley Individual Leaders:
FGs | Chelsea Brackmann (9 for 14)
3's | Gabi Haack (3 for 6)
FTs | Brackmann / Haack (4 each)
Reb | Chelsea Brackmann (24 - career high)
Ast | Tatum Koenig (4)
Blk | Chelsea Brackmann (4)
Stl | Haack / Koenig (2 each)

Next Game:
Friday, January 11th
@ Evansville (2-11) (0-2)
6:00 pm CST tip-off
Listen | WIRL 1290 AM
Watch | ESPN+ ($)

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