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Women's basketball bests URI, PC for tournament title

22 points from tournament MVP Will ’19 lifts Bears over Friars in championship game

All week, Head Coach Sarah Behn had been telling her team that she wanted the cup. Saturday, the women’s basketball team set out to get it.

The team did not have to look far in order to find an in-state rival this weekend. Brown hosted the inaugural Ocean State Tip-Off Tournament at the Pizzatola Center. The four-team tournament included Brown, University of Rhode Island, Providence College and Bryant.

Brown (5-3) tipped off against URI (5-5) Saturday in its first game of the tournament.

Captain Megan Reilly ’18 said that the games against the in-state opponents meant a lot to the team. “We want to be the best team in Rhode Island,” she said.

From the outset, the Bears were tasked with breaking URI’s half court press. Thanks to aggressive dribbling and sharp ball movement, they did just that. Erika Steeves ’19 scored 11 points in the first quarter. Her teammates would pick her out as she cut to the basket, resulting in easy layups. At one point, Reilly punished a cheating defender with a precise lob pass to Steeves. It was this kind of passing and unselfish play that made Bruno so successful. “We had great chemistry today,” Reilly said. The Bears dished out 15 assists on the night.

Shayna Mehta ’19 came on strong in the second quarter, scoring on three straight Brown possessions. Mehta’s superior quickness was too much for URI, and the sophomore guard was able to cut to the basket at will and convert for the Bears.

Bruno took a 48-33 lead into the halftime break.

Throughout the game, Brown showed a desire to run the court. Behn would motivate the team from the bench, encouraging them to bring the ball up the court quickly. This fast and physical style of play resulted in numerous visits to the foul line for the Bears. But Brown had trouble converting from the stripe, shooting 20-34 on the night. Despite its free throw woes, Bruno lead by as much as 22.

Even with a considerable lead of more than 15 points in the fourth quarter, Bruno continued to push the tempo. The team likes to run the floor as it has the speed and shooters who can knock down shots in transition, Reilly said.

Brown only slowed the tempo when Rhody brought the game close. In the fourth quarter, the Bears failed to score for five straight minutes. Consequently, the Rams cut Bruno’s lead to seven with three minutes to play.

But the Rams couldn’t pull off the comeback, and the Bears closed out the game with a 76-65 win.

Where Bruno was selfless, Rhody’s offense centered around one player: Charise Wilson, who lead the Rams with 27 points, while no other URI player had more than 11.

Both Steeves and Mehta finished the game with double-doubles. Steeves scored a career high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Mehta tallied 15 points and snagged a game high 11 rebounds.

The Bears entered the tournament final Saturday against then-undefeated Providence College (8-1).

While Bruno looked sharp at the beginning, the Friars took their first lead of the game with 1:30 left to play in the first quarter. Providence stretched the advantage to eight by the end of the quarter with its three-point shooting. The Friars lead 22-14 after one quarter.

Brown battled back in the second, thanks in part to Providence’s inability to take care of the ball. The Friars had 13 first-half turnovers, while the Bears had only three.

Brown went into halftime with a 34-29 lead, and the game stayed competitive after the half. At the end of the third quarter, both teams traded threes and the Bears had a 51-50 lead going into the final stanza.

Brown widened the margin, but Providence closed the gap, bringing itself within one with about four minutes left to play. Providence stayed in the contest with its three-point shooting, but conversions from the line closed out the game for Bruno. Brown handed Providence its first loss of the season with a final score of 77-70. With its third consecutive win, Bruno hoisted the tournament cup as the best team in Rhode Island.

Will finished the game with a game-high 22 points, Mehta and Abby O’Keefe ’20 added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Mary Butler ’19 also provided the Bears with a double-double, with 14 points and 11 rebounds. For her efforts over the weekend, Butler was selected to the all-tournament team. Will was selected as MVP of the tournament.

Bruno travels to Vermont Thursday in the hopes of capturing its fourth-straight win.

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