Brown women defeat Adelphi, get ready for the start of Ivy play

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – The Brown women’s basketball team built several 20-point-plus second-half leads and held off a determined Adelphi to come away with a closer-than-expected 75-62 victory on Wednesday evening. With the win, the Bears secured their third victory in the penultimate contest of a seven game road trip and improved its overall record to 8-7.

The game, a rare visit to a Division II program, was the result of a cancelled late December game against Howard and the need to fill an empty slot before the start of the Ivy schedule. With most teams starting league play in January and limited time at the end of 2018 calendar, there were few takers.

“I’ve known (Adephi head coach) Missy (Traversi) for a long time,” said Brown coach Sarah Behn.  “We’re grateful they squeezed the game in.”

The Panthers (6-6; 4-2 NE-10 Conference) came out fighting, taking a 11-9 lead with just under three minutes to go in the first quarter. The Bears regrouped and closed out the stanza on an 8-0 run, thanks to two layups from first-year reserve Traiva Breedlove and two mid-range jumpers from senior starter Mary Butler.

The second quarter belonged to the visitors, as Brown stretched its lead to as many as 18 points before finishing the half with a 42-26 lead. Bruno was led by Breedlove, who put up a career high of 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting in only eight minutes of action. The 5′ 8″ guard from Rochester more than held her own under the basket, getting all of her buckets inside the paint. Butler added nine points for the Bears, who shot 49 percent from the field. Defensively, they held Adelphi to 32 percent shooting from the field and 13 percent from three, as well as holding a 10 percent advantage in rebounds.

Justine Gaziano, the Ivy’s second leading scorer who had a quiet four points in the first half, scored seven points and added a steal in the first two minutes of the second half to boost the lead to 23. With the Bears up 61-38 at the four-minute mark of the third quarter, the Panthers went on an 11-4 run to get within 16 at the start of the last quarter.

An Alana Kelley layup brought the Brown lead to 22 with just over four minutes to go in regulation before their hectic holiday schedule finally caught up to them – a 90-65 win at Chicago State (0-13) on Sunday, a double overtime 109-102 loss to Northern Illinois (8-4) on Monday afternoon, a flight back to Providence on Sunday evening and a four hour bus ride on Wednesday.  Coach Traversi ran out her deep bench on the fatigued Bears, as Adelphi closed out the game on an 11-0 run.  While the win was never in doubt for Brown, the final margin was closer than expected.

“I’m glad that we were able to come out here and win.  They (Adelphi) look like a Division I team,” Behn said. “We’ve been flying all over the place and we’re a little beat up mentally. I’m just glad we got the win.”

On the evening, Gaziano led all scorers with 17 points, followed by Breedlove with 15 and Erika Steeves with 13.  Shayna Mehta, the Ivy League’s third leading scorer, added 11 points, but only shot 24 percent with a 3-for-11 performance from the three-point line.

The team shot 43 percent from the field, 82 percent from the line and 53 percent from two, while holding a 42-28 advantage with points in the paint. Brown also held the Panthers to 42 percent from two, 20 percent from three and 67 percent from the free throw line.  However, the Bears only shot 24 percent from the arc (6-for-25) and ended up losing the rebounding battle by 7 percent.

“We didn’t rebound well today, and we looked sluggish under the basket, but in general, we’re making some improvement in those areas,” Behn said.

With two weeks to go before conference play, the Bears possess the most potent offense in the conference, averaging 76 points per game. Joining Gaziano (19.6 ppg) and Mehta (17.2 ppg) near the top of the league’s scoring list is senior wing Taylor Will.  After averaging 17 points and 32.9 minutes a game during the team’s 10-1 start last season, she suffered a season-ending knee injury that contributed to the team going 5-11 the rest of the year.  She returned after an offseason of rehab to play every game, averaging 11 points and 32.1 minutes per contest.

“She’s further ahead than a lot of people that had (that knee injury)” Behn said. “She may not be 100 percent, but she’s working really hard and getting closer every day.”

A recent shift to move the 6′ 2″ Steeves out to the three-point line and get the 6′ 0″ Butler more involved closer to the hoop has paid dividends for the Bears.  Over the team’s last three Division I games, Steeves is averaging 21 points per game with 56 percent (14-for-25) from three, and Butler is adding 12.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting.  The additional frontcourt production from Breedlove over the last four game (11 points per game on 68 percent shooting over 15 minutes per game) should help during the upcoming back-to-back Ivy weekends where frontcourt depth will definitely be needed.

While there are few concerns on the offensive side, the Bears have some work to do on defense. They are doing a good job at the three-point line, limiting opponents to 28.6 percent shooting.  However, they are allowing teams to score 74.6 points a game (77.8 ppg for Division I rivals) and shoot 45.9 percent from two (47.5 percent vs Division 1 teams).  On the glass, they are seventh in the Ivy League in offensive rebounding with a 29.1 percent rate and sixth in defensive boards at 67.2 percent.

Next up for the Bears is a tilt at Rutgers (9-3, 2-0 Big Ten) in their last non-conference game of the year.  Bruno will be facing a Scarlet Knights team that has already claimed road wins at Harvard by 11 and No. 4 Maryland by ight.

Asked about the team’s chances, Behn noted, “It’s a good opportunity. Any team can beat any team on any given day, so we’ll see what we can do.”

The Bears, picked fifth in the league’s preseason poll, are realistic as they begin their quest to return to the Ivy Tournament for the first time since 2017, when all five current starters began the semifinal game against Penn.  “I do feel optimistic. I think we can be in the top half of the conference, but we’ve got to do a better job with our focus and our defensive sets,” Behn said. “We have the ability and opportunity to do well in the Ivy League, but it’s a grueling conference where every game has a championship feeling.”

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