W. hoops loses to URI and American over break

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

With a youthful roster, the women’s basketball team would benefit from some close-game experience. After their first four games were all decided by at least 31 points, the Bears (0-6) finally had to perform in crunch time over Thanksgiving break. But in two tight matchups at the University of Rhode Island Invitational over the weekend, the team came up short.

Brown lost to the University of Rhode Island on Friday, 61-55, after blowing a nine-point second-half lead. In the consolation game the next day, the team hung close with American University for much of the game but could not make a final push and fell 57-46.

The team felt it could glean positives from the weekend despite the unfavorable results. Head Coach Jean Burr said the team “really played a very good game” against Atlantic 10 foe URI, and captain Annesley O’Neal ’08 said playing in close games “felt really good because we had been working hard all week.”

The Bears improved on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball compared to its first four games. Brown recorded its top-two point totals of the season over the weekend. Jaclyn Goldbarg ’09 ignited the team’s offense with 15 points versus URI, and the team featured a balanced attack on Saturday as six players scored at least five points each. Goldbarg felt the team’s defensive pressure was the key.

“We worked a lot better as a team,” she said. “Our defense was better and our communication was better, but we just had a letdown in communication and intensity at the end of the games.”

Brown fell behind 12-6 after the opening five minutes, but went on a 7-0 run sparked by a three-pointer from Sadiea Williams ’11 to snare a 13-12 lead. The Bears increased their advantage to seven points at the 2:27 mark and entered halftime up 31-28 for their first halftime lead of the season.

In the second half, the Bears led by nine with just under 14 minutes to play, but the Rams chipped away little by little and broke a 46-46 tie with a three-pointer at the 3:31 mark, giving the host a lead it would not relinquish.

“I think we contained them defensively (in the first half), which put us in position to hit some shots,” Burr said. “We got good looks throughout, but then we had the drought because we’re a young team.”

The team hopes that Goldbarg’s emergence will add to the team’s versatility. After rehabbing a knee injury, Goldbarg returned to allow the team a number of proficient outside shooters – three Bears guards have scored in double digits this season. While Goldbarg said her performance can be attributed to improved team play, O’Neal recognized that the junior deserves to get the ball more often.

“She’s a great player,” the team captain said. “When she’s in the game I’m thinking, ‘What can I do to set her up for a three-pointer?’ “

In the tilt with American, O’Neal hit a jumper a minute in for two of her team-leading nine points, but it would prove to be Brown’s only lead of the game. The Eagles then went on a 13-4 run to take a seven-point lead with 11:03 to play in the half. After back-and-forth play the rest of the period, American took a 30-22 advantage into the break.

Brown opened the second half with a basket but then went 11:30 without a field goal, a span during which American outscored the Bears 15-1. Brown resuscitated its offense in the final eight minutes, but it was too little, too late.

“We’re a very good team, but we haven’t turned the corner offensively,” Burr said. “We’re working hard and we’re on the right track … but it’s just about getting into a niche and flow offensively.”

O’Neal felt the team carried its solid defensive effort against URI into the game against American, giving the Bears a chance, but Brown could not take advantage.

“They were practically trying to give us the game, but we couldn’t hit shots,” O’Neal said.

The URI Invitational was the second of three tournaments the team will play in consecutive weekends. Next weekend, the team will host Manhattan College, St. Joseph’s University and Howard University in the Brown Bear Basketball Classic.

“We realize that we have to keep the intensity up at all times during these back-to-back weekend tournaments,” Goldbarg said. “(The tournaments) are great preparation for the Ivy League schedule, when we’ll have two tough games every weekend.”

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