Saturday, January 19, 2019

Braves can't hold off Missouri State

Bradley's Nyjah White and Missouri State's Jasmine Franklin go for the opening tipoff of Friday night's game.
The Lady Bears would go on to win, 68-56. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Peoria, Ill. - The wintry weather hadn't hit the Peoria area just yet, so that allowed the Missouri State Lady Bears (8-7) (4-0) to play the Bradley Braves (12-4) (2-3) at Renaissance Coliseum on Friday night.

This one got off to quite a slow start. Truthfully, for both sides. A jumper exactly midway through the opening quarter by the Lady Bears' Danielle Gitzen made it 14-7 Missouri State. Only three combined points would be scored the rest of the quarter. Bradley's Chelsea Brackmann scored on a layup and Abby Hipp added a free throw for Missouri State. Over the course of 10 minutes, both teams would combine for 24 points, with the visiting Lady Bears holding a 15-9 advantage.

Brackmann sees the low-scoring start as not the sole reason for the loss, but she says that it certainly didn't help, adding that they were "stunned a little bit".

"I think sometimes we dig ourselves a hole. That doesn't really help us in the long run. I think we just need to come out stronger."

Scoring came a bit more at ease for each side in the second quarter, but more so for Missouri State. Eight threes were hit between both teams, but the Lady Bears hit two of them in the second, with Gitzen and Alexa Willard each hitting a trey apiece.

Willard continued her presence as the leading scorer for Missouri State, scoring seven of her game-high (tied) 18 points. Gitzen added six in the quarter to give their head coach Kellie Harper two double figure scorers by halftime.

Bradley, on the other hand, would nearly double their scoring from the opening period of play, but keep in mind that the Braves scored nine points in the first.

Gabi Haack hit Bradley's first three of the night, but the scoring was fairly spread out, with Brackmann, Lasha Petree, Tatum Koenig, Vanessa Markert, and Nyjah White all hitting the scoring column.

Missouri State would take a 13-point lead at halftime, 37-24 to be exact.

It seemed like it would at first. The Braves seemed fairly rejuvenated in the third quarter. However, the Lady Bears appeared to have an answer for just about every Bradley make. A Haack three was answered by a Franklin layup. Emily Marsh jumper - Calip jumper.

A layup by Tatum Koenig with 4:52 on the clock was the first shot that was not followed by a score from Missouri State. It was a layup from Ryan Wilkins to trim the Lady Bears lead down to 13. In fact, a free throw from Franklin was all Missouri State got the rest of the quarter. It was almost a 10 point game with a mere quarter to go.

It took just over half of the fourth quarter, but the Braves got the deficit within 10 points when Petree hit her first three-ball of the contest, and the single-digit spread was for the first time since the 5:54 mark of the second quarter.

That deficit wouldn't last long though. A free throw from the Lady Bears' Sydney Wilson 24 seconds later brought it back to 10+, and the Braves would not get any closer.

A layup from Gabi Haack made it a 10-point game once again with just over a minute to go, but it wasn't enough to give the Braves the win.

Friday's game wrapped with the final 1:13 of the game not seeing any points scored, after Willard hit a jumper for Missouri State with the aforementioned 73 seconds to go.

The Lady Bears would get the win, 68-56, to stay undefeated in Missouri Valley play. Missouri State and the Southern Illinois Salukis will trade places on Sunday, as the Salukis are coming off of 60-52 loss to Illinois State in Normal.

Gabi Haack's 18 points paced Bradley's scoring. Chelsea Brackmann also brought in her eighth double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and bringing in 13 rebounds. Her double-double was a bright spot in the Braves' offensive efforts, and Gorski agrees.

"That kid - she's just all business. We don't have to worry about Chelsea. We know what we're getting night in and night out. She's going to come mentally and physically ready to play."

Brackmann says that a particular player's game had to do with the way she played tonight, at least in terms of rebounds.

"I just knew 32 (Jasmine Franklin) was one of the good rebounders. I had to out-rebound her as well."

She did, Brackmann out-rebounded Franklin by a tally of 13-6.

There was a key stat that Coach Gorski was not pleased with. Free throws. Bradley shot 7-9 on the game, while the Lady Bears went 15-26. She says that the odds are almost never in your favor in those situations.

"You're not going to win any games doing that."

Gorski went on to say that on top of the charity stripe, there was another major factor in Missouri State's play.

"They are a super physical team. You're not going to win when they get that many more (+17) free throws (attempted) at home."

With Brackmann being one of Bradley's key contributors in terms of physicality, her perspective would be one of the best within the team. The junior says that the "physicalness" that Missouri State brings to the floor is something they knew about going into the game.

"I guess we just gotta wait until we're at Missouri State (February 17th) and just match their physicalness."

The third-year coach is hopeful that a couple of aspects of her team's game against the Lady Bears carry over into Sunday's tilt with the Salukis.

"Made some great individual shots. It was just pull-up jumpers and great individual plays. That's tough. Team defense, I don't think it was as bad. They had 68 points, but I don't think it was as bad as that."

The Braves will host Southern Illinois on Sunday afternoon.

Bradley Scoring: Gabi Haack (18), Chelsea Brackmann (12), Tatum Koenig (6), Lasha Petree (5), Ellie Spelhaug (5), Vanessa Markert (4), Nyjah White (2), Ryan Wilkins (2), Emily Marsh (2)

Bradley Team Stats: 
FGs | 22 for 68 (32.4%)
3's | 5 for 23 (21.7%)
FTs | 7 for 9 (77.8%)
Rebounds | 38
Fouls | 20
Assists | 14
Turnovers | 19
Blocks | 3
Steals | 11

Bradley Individual Leaders:
FGs | Gabi Haack (7 for 16)
3's | Gabi Haack (3 for 9)
FTs | Chelsea Brackmann (4 for 6)
Rebounds | Chelsea Brackmann (13)
Assists | Tatum Koenig (5)
Blocks | Vanessa Markert (2)
Steals | Chelsea Brackmann (6)

Next Bradley Game:
vs. Southern Illinois (8-7) (1-3)
@ Renaissance Coliseum
Web Stream | ESPN+ ($)
Radio | WIRL 1290 AM

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