“With four games in five nights you don’t get much time to prepare for each team, so you have to go out and play your game the best you can,” commented coach Jason Reuter after his fourth-ranked Bearettes reached the 20-win mark for the third straight year with a 56-31 victory.
The Bears meanwhile got a “wake-up call” as the Red Raiders, whom Bradley beat by 40 points last week, had the hot hand this time around for a 71-49 win to snap Bradley’s eight-game winning streak.
“We knew we weren’t going to shoot as well as we did last week, plus we knew (MTSU signee Reggie ) Upshaw would be back (missed last week’s game with an ankle injury), but my problem with our performance is it didn’t feel like we came down ready to compete,” declared veteran Bear head coach Kent Smith.
“They (Baylor) are a different team with him (Upshaw) on the court. They are more confident and much tougher defensively,” Smith commented. “Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call for us to realize if we don’t bring our best effort each night, we’ll get beat,”
Bradley will host Rhea County in a key District 5-AAA matchup Friday evening and then entertain Northwest Whitfield (Ga.) Saturday.
Much like the night before, the Bearettes (20-2) got off to a slow start Wednesday, making just two of their first 11 shots as the game was tied 6-all at the first break. Almost three minutes into the contest, senior Kayla Withrow drilled the first of her four 3-pointers on the night, plus junior Brooke Copeland added a three-point play 16 seconds later to account for Bradley’s scoring in the opening period.
The Black-and-Gold came out strong in the second frame, netting the first dozen points, eight from Withrow, for a double-digit lead. Copeland put the other six points on the visitors’ side of the scoreboard as the Bearettes carried a 20-10 advantage into the locker rooms.
The teams traded the first 21 points after the intermission before Bradley used a 6-2 run to wrap up the third period with a 16-point edge and a 10-3 run midway through the final frame to salt away their 20th win of the season. The Bearettes are 79-10 since coach Reuter took over the program three seasons ago.
For the second straight night Copeland led the scoring with 20 points, plus she cleared seven rebounds, blocked three shots and copped a pair of steals.
Withrow finished with 14 points and three assists, while junior point guard Whitney Donaldson helped out with 10 points, a half dozen helps and a pair of thefts.
Senior Brandi Whitted collected six points, a half dozen caroms and four assists, with junior Rebecca Reuter also netting six points, pulling down five rebounds and blocking a pair of shots.
“We’ve had to deal with our big girls (Copeland on Tuesday, Reuter Wednesday) getting in foul trouble and missing most of the first half the last two nights, which is something we haven’t had a problem with this season, and I thought we adjusted well,” coach Reuter stated. “Kayla (Withrow) really stepped up tonight with her outside shots to take the pressure off the middle.”
“They (Baylor) kept changing defenses, sometimes on each possession, which meant we had to play several different ways and we did that well,” he added. “We were able to once again go to a 2-3 zone in the second half and that helped us stretch our lead.”
The Bearette defense did give up a double-digit scorer as Abby Hubert led the Lady Raiders (11-10) with nine points.
RED RAIDERS 71, BEARS 49
When the teams met nine days ago, Bradley (13-9) shot the lights out, hitting right at 70 percent from the field on its way to its highest point total (88) in nearly six years.
Wednesday night, both teams missed their first four shots, before Baylor (11-7) drained 10-of-11 to race out to a double digit lead it wouldn’t surrender.
The game actually started with five lead changes in the first 19 points, but the hosts got four straight 3-pointers from sharpshooter Clay Born in the final three minutes of the opening frame for a 20-12 lead when the buzzer sounded.
Upshaw exploded for a dozen points, including an alley-oop slam dunk, while Born drilled two more “treys” as the Red Raiders stretched their lead to 19 at the half.
After the break, Bradley came out strong but the hosts were able to thwart the rally.
“We came out in the first four minutes of the second half and cut the difference to 11 points with possession, but then we turned the ball over and Born got open for another 3 and that just sucked the wind right out of us,” coach Smith remarked.
After Baylor went back up by 16, Bradley hit the first two shots of the final period to pull within a dozen, but Baylor sealed the game with a 13-0 run that saw the Bears get off just two shots in a 3 1/2 minute span.
Junior Logan Cox was the only Bear to net double figures, drilling 5-of-7 3-point attempts for 15 points.
While Bradley did shoot 43 percent (17-of-40) from the field, the Bears pulled down just 18 rebounds and turned the ball over 15 times.
Baylor connected on 21-of-32 shots (66 percent) from in front of the arc and 9-of-19 (47 percent) with Born and Upshaw combining for 47 points. Born sizzled the nylon for 29 points, while Upshaw posted a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Bradley Central 6 14 18 18 — 56
Baylor 6 4 12 9 — 31
BEARETTES (56) — Brooke Copeland 20, Kayla Withrow 14, Whitney Donaldson 10, Reuter 6, Whitted 6, Carroll, Thompson, Stallings, Davis, Hill, Delane, Pippenger.
LADY RAIDERS (31) — Abby Hubert 9, Pope 6, Clemons 6, Long 4, Kaufman 3, Huckabay 3, Carter, Karman, Birdsong, Smith, Blackmon, Gautier, McMahan.
3-POINTERS: Bradley 6 (Withrow 4, Donaldson 2); Baylor 3 (Pope, Kaufman, Huckabay).
FREE THROWS: Bradley 6-of-7; Baylor 4-of-6.
RECORDS: Bradley 20-2; Baylor 11-10.
Baylor 20 22 12 17 — 71
Bradley Central 12 11 15 11 — 49
BEARS (49) — Logan Cox 15, Cain 8, Copeland 8, Whitmire 7, Bentley 6, Terrell 3, Clark 2, McCurdy, Maroon, Morgan.
RED RAIDERS (71) — Clay Born 29, Reggie Upshaw 18, Matt Clendenen 10, Gage Upshaw 8, Lupas 6, Giussani, Bowens, Maum, Seaberg, Kelly, Chen.
3-point goals: Bradley 8 (Cox 5, Copeland, Bentley, Terrell); Baylor 9 (Born 8, Clendenen).
Free throws: Bradley 7-of-10; Baylor 2-of-4.
Records: Bradley Central 13-9; Baylor 11-7.