The women’s basketball team traveled to Florida for its season opener Friday, beginning on a high note with a 68-61 victory over Bethune-Cookman University.
The Bears (1-0) entered the game hoping for a successful start to their season after last year’s 10-18 record. Bruno battled the Wildcats (0-1) for most of the game but pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter. With the score tied at 51, the Bears scored nine unanswered points, taking a lead that they would not relinquish.
“In the fourth quarter, we found a lineup that clicked,” said guard Rebecca Musgrove ’17. “We really were deep on defense. We got a bunch of stops, and once we started getting stops, our offense started flowing.”
“We got a group in there that was really playing well together,” said co-captain Jordin Alexander ’16. “We were gelling really well, so we fueled ourselves on our own momentum, and that powered us through the rest of the game.”
After the Wildcats tied the game at 51 with 7:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, Mary Butler ’19 put the Bears back on top at 6:40. Musgrove stole the ball from B-CU’s Jasmine Knowles, adding a layup of her own. Point guard Shayna Mehta ’19 hit a three to push the lead to seven, and Butler scored again at 3:45, putting the Bears nine points ahead.
The Bears’ defense played spectacularly down the stretch, forcing three turnovers and a blocked shot over the 9-0 run. Only two points up at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bears outscored B-CU 24-19 in the final 10 minutes to seal the victory.
The Bears’ offense also outplayed B-CU’s in most key statistical areas, holding an advantage in field goal percentage, assists and turnovers. Bruno dominated the glass and scored 14 second-chance points.
Brown also experimented with its lineup to great success, receiving 38 points from its bench, while the Wildcats’ bench chipped in only 11. Musgrove cited this experimentation as a factor in the Bears’ success, noting that it allowed the starters to regain their energy in the fourth quarter.
The starters “took a step back and took a breath,” she said.
“We’re really deep,” Alexander said. “It was good for the freshmen, getting them immersed a little bit into our system.”
In her first game with the team, Mehta paced the Bears on offense, scoring 17 points and adding five rebounds, along with six steals on defense. Alexander added 16 points of her own.
“Shayna and Jordin really stepped up for us and hit a few threes in the fourth quarter that put us up,” Musgrove said.
The Bears’ five first-years combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds, including 17 points and five rebounds from Mehta and nine and 10 from Erika Steeves ’19.
“Our freshmen are a huge contribution to the team,” Musgrove said. “They have a lot of height, and that’s going to really help us. Having some options in the post and having a big presence down there on defense, as well as having (Mehta) at the point this year — all five of them are great additions to the team.”
Alexander echoed this sentiment, noting that the first-years are “definitely going to contribute a lot this year.”
It is no secret that last year’s campaign was disappointing, and with a win to open the season, the Bears hope to build on their success going forward.
“It’s huge, especially for team morale going into the season,” Alexander said. “Last year, we had a win our first game that fueled us for the rest of the season, so it was a huge win for everyone.”
“It’s a great momentum starter for us as a team, especially on the road,” Musgrove said. “It’s great starting off the season with a win and going forward.”
The Bears will now play four games before next Tuesday, taking on Providence, Mount Ida, Morgan State and Vermont. Last year, the Bears lost to Providence but beat Morgan State and UVM.
“Not only do we want to beat (Providence) because of last year, but we also know their personnel,” Musgrove said. “We’re just going to go right at them in our home gym, and especially being our first home game, I think we’ll be successful.”
“This year we’re focused on playing really hard-nosed defense, and that’s going to help us against Providence,” Alexander said. “They have a lot of drivers and scorers that like to get to the basket, so the defensive system that we’re playing off this year should really help shut that down.”
As the Bears take on familiar opponents, Musgrove sees potential in the team’s balanced mix of youth and experience.
“They don’t know our personnel anymore now that we have so many young key players, so we have a few secret weapons to show as well as lot of veterans who know our team,” she said. “We’re really going to click, and we have a great opportunity this year to get a lot of wins.”
Musgrove remains convinced that the smooth execution on both sides of the ball in Friday’s win augurs well for the rest of the Bears’ season.
“We have huge potential,” she said. “We’re going to shock a lot of teams this year.”