SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Junior Brooke Bjelko (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) and freshman Nicole Gallagher (Foxboro, Mass.) notched double-figures in the Bryant University women's basketball team conference opener against Saint Francis U on Thursday afternoon. The Bulldogs fell 63-60 after 14 lead changes and a nail-biting final minute.
Bjelko led with 18 points while Gallagher added 14 in Gallagher's debut against the NEC. The Bulldogs erased an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to take the Red Flash into the final minute. However, fate was not on Bryant's side as the Red Flash walked away with the conference-opening victory.
Saint Francis U 63, Bryant 60
Records: Bryant (2-10, 0-1), Saint Francis U (3-9, 1-0)
Location: Chace Athletic Center (Smithfield, R.I.)
- Saint Francis started pulling away in the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run growing to its biggest lead of the game, 58-47.
- Masey Zegarowski (Hamilton, Mass.) and Gallagher added back-to-back baskets for the Bulldogs in the final minute to put Bryant within one. In Bryant's final possession, the Bulldogs were charged with an illegal screen with under 10 seconds to go in the game. The Bulldogs were forced to foul and the Red Flash ended the game with a pair at the stripe just before the final buzzer.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Both teams started out slow on the offensive side of the court with the first basket of the contest coming from the foul line at the 7:41 mark for the Red Flash. Saint Francis followed the free throw with the first field goal of the day when Haley Thomas dashed back door for the easy two.
- Bjelko accounted for seven of Bryant's 13 first-quarter points. The junior was three-for-four from the field with an added point from the stripe to help aid the Bulldogs to a 35.3 shooting percentage in the first frame.
- The Bulldogs held a three-point advantage after the first frame, 13-10.
- At the 5:33 mark in the second quarter, Bjelko led the Bulldogs on a 5-0 run fueled by a game-tying layup under the basket. The run helped Bryant take a three-point advantage over the Red Flash, 20-17.
- It wasn't long before Saint Francis took back the lead as they closed out the quarter on a 6-1 run for the eighth lead change of the half. The teams headed into the locker room with a one-point game on the line, 23-22.
- Saint Francis hit two early shots to start the second half but the Bulldogs responded with a pair of three's from Gallagher and Taty LaFrance Boyce (Norwich, Conn.) to erase the five-point deficit and fuel an 11-2 run to give Bryant a four-point cushion, 33-29.
- The Red Flash took no time in returning the favor when Karson Swogger knocked down a three just two minutes later to take back the lead, 39-37.
- Gallagher pulled down an offensive rebound in the final possession of the quarter and found Trinity Bravo (Bridgeport, Conn.) who powered her way down the lane to put the Bulldogs within one heading into the fourth quarter, 41-42.
- Gallagher knocked down a short jumper to open the quarter before Saint Francis took off on a 9-2 run before the media timeout. The Red Flash continued the offensive burst following the timeout and grew to its biggest lead of day of 11 points, 58-47.
- Bryant responded with a 9-2 run of its own. Bjelko grabbed an offensive board, and the Bulldogs swung the ball around the arc to Gallagher in the corner for a three to kickstart the run and claw back into the game.
- With under a minute to go in the game, coach Burke immediately took a thirty-second timeout after Zegarowski took the ball all the way to the basket to put Bryant within three.
- Coming out of the timeout, the Bulldogs forced the Red Flash to turn the ball over with a backcourt violation. Bryant tried for a three in the next possession but came up with the offensive rebound and the put-back from Gallagher to make the score, 61-60, in Saint Francis's favor.
- In the final 10 seconds of the game, the Bulldogs tied the ball up on the defensive end to regain the possession but immediately gave the ball back to Saint Francis after an illegal screen during Bryant's final plea to win the game.
- The Red Flash would drain two free throws just before the final buzzer to end the game, 63-60.
- Bjelko led with 18 points shooting eight-of-11 from the field.
- Gallagher also notched double-figures netting 14 points off six-of-15 shooting and two-of-seven from beyond the arc.
- Zegarowski led with a game-high six assists.
- LaFrance Boyce led the team with three steals.
- Sydney Holloway (Morgantown, W.Va.) posted double-figures on the glass with 10 rebounds.
- The Bulldogs were outrebounded by one, 35-34.
- Bryant finished the game shooting 41.3 percent from the field off 26-of-63 shooting. Saint Francis U posted a 47.2 field goal percentage shooting 25-of-53.
- The game saw 14 different lead changes.
- Zegarowski has tallied at least five assists in three of Bryant's last four games for a total of 18 assists in the four-game stretch.
- Bjelko and Gallagher each accumulated their fifth double-figure scoring performance of the season.
- The Bulldogs are now 9-12 all-time against the Red Flash, and 7-4 all-time in Smithfield against the NEC foe.
UP NEXT: Fairleigh Dickinson
Bryant continues the NEC schedule with a quick trip to New Jersey to take on Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 1 p.m.