After months of finely tuned preseason training, the women’s basketball team took to the hard court in uniform in its season opener against Howard Friday. The Bears (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) looked to secure a pivotal first win in order to build momentum for the season. And Bruno did just that with a tight 83-78 victory over the Bison (0-1).
A particularly demanding preseason prepared the team extremely well for this season, said point guard Megan Reilly ’18. The training block consisted of weight lifting and conditioning, pickup games and position skills workouts up to four times a week.
“We had a great preseason this year,” Reilly said. “Our first practice was on Oct. 3, and since then our coaches have been doing an amazing job of making sure that we would be prepared for our first game.”
With the countless hours of practice behind them, the Bears headed into their matchup against Howard, excited to test their play and showcase their abilities.
“I was so pumped for our first game,” Reilly said. “I felt confident that we would win. Everyone has been working so hard, and as long as we played together for the full 40 minutes, I knew that we would come out with the W.”
But despite Bruno’s energy and adrenaline, Howard’s offense took charge in the first quarter, putting an 11-point gap on the Bears with the score 26-15. Guard Shayna Mehta ’19 led the charge with eight points — two jump shots, a three-pointer and a free throw, but the team would need more offensive production and more defensive stops in order to turn the tide.
And the Bears rallied, chipping away at this deficit over the course of the second period and taking a 44-43 lead by early in the third quarter after an 8-0 run.
The next period and a half was a battle, with Brown and Howard fighting hard for the win. The lead changed multiple times, with both teams going on double-digit runs to seemingly put the game away. In one instance, Howard scored 10 unanswered points to kick off the fourth quarter and take a 63-57 lead over the Bears.
But a 30-second timeout called by Head Coach Sarah Behn brought the team composure. Rookie guard Justine Gaziano ’20 went on to score four quick points to close the Bison’s lead to just two points, as Brown charged back into the game.
The Bears went on to outscore the Bison 26-25 in the fourth quarter, and as the buzzer sounded the team had a five-point lead. In the win, Gaziano posted 17 points, Mehta tallied 18, and guard Taylor Will ’19 netted a career high 20-point performance.
“A big highlight from our first win was that we had so many contributions from so many people,” Reilly said. “Everyone stepped up, and we played team basketball. We had a lot of assists, and we were unselfish on offense. We also had some great defensive possessions and boards that led to a lot of transition buckets.”
Moving forward, Bruno’s motto for the season is “all in.” As Reilly remarked, the team has struggled in the past with maintaining a “consistently positive attitude” due to the sheer duration of the team’s five-month season, which continues through mid-March.
“It’s important that we hold each other accountable and make sure that we stay committed to each other and our program,” Reilly said.
In fact, the team collectively read Jon Gordon’s “The Energy Bus” at the beginning of the season and has used its lessons and guidance to inform the way it functions.
“We learned that our ‘energy buses’ serve as a metaphor for our lives,” Reilly said. “We now recognize the importance of fueling our buses with positive energy. It sounds cliche, but the book has really helped us come together and trust the process.”
The Bears will continue their season tonight against Sacred Heart and will also head to Bryant Thursday.
Due to a long stretch of non-conference play, Reilly noted that the team’s primary focus is on the upcoming Ocean State Tournament, which includes only Rhode Island schools: Brown, Bryant, University of Rhode Island and Providence College.
Reilly also said that in the long term, “another goal is to end up in the top four of the Ivy League and advance the Ivy League Tournament.”
“We are a very young team,” she added. “Our underclassmen need to step up and take on big leadership roles.”