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Bryant opens 2020-21 season at home

Photo by: DSPics.com
Photo by: DSPics.com

SMITHFIELD, R.I. - The time has finally come as the Bryant University women's basketball team gets to lace up and take the floor against a team that does not sport the Black and Gold. The Bulldogs open the season at home against UMass on Wednesday, November 25 at 3:30 p.m. The Chace Athletic Center does not permit any fans during this time, but as always, fans can watch the game for free on NEC Front Row. 

THE PARTICULARS
Opponent:
 UMass
Location:
 Chace Athletic Center (Smithfield, R.I.)
Game Time:
 3:30 p.m.
Live Stats:
 Sidearm Stats
Watch Live:
 NEC Front Row
Game Notes:
 Game 1 - UMass 
Social Media:
 Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | #AllHeart | #AllHustle | #NECWBB

THE MATCHUP
Bryant kicks off the long-awaited 2020-21 season on Wednesday, November 25, at 3:30pm in Smithfield against UMass. The two teams have only met twice in history as the Minutewomen hold the series advantage, 2-0. The assistant coach of UMass, Lynn-Ann Kokoski, is a Bryant Women's Basketball alum from the class of 2008 and even assisted the Bulldogs for three years after graduation. 
 
LAST TIME OUT: FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON
The Bulldogs ended the 2019-20 season at Fairleigh Dickinson in the NEC Quarterfinals, 57-43, on March 9. FDU's 28-17 second-half push gave the Knights the game, however, FDU's season would end there due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Recent graduate Sydney Holloway led the Bulldogs with a classic double-double of 10 points, 12 rebounds but was matched in points by then-junior Brooke Bjelko. Despite the deficit, the Bulldogs outrebounded the Knights, 37-33. 
 
Since the NEC postseason, Bryant graduated five but lost six for the 2020-21 season due to Trinity Bravo opting out of the year. However, the Bulldogs returned nine and added six during the break. 

SCOUTING THE MINUTEWOMEN
The Minutewomen concluded the 2019-20 season with a 13-point loss to conference foe Saint Louis in the A-10 Quarterfinals and then went on to graduate just two players from a year ago, including leading scorer, Hailey Leidel, who helped the team post a 20-11 overall record.  The strengths of the team from last season lied in blocks, steals, and minimizing turnovers as they led the A-10 in all three categories. UMass's 6-5 sophomore center, Maeve Donnelly, ranked among the top 20 in the country with 76 blocks during her rookie season. On the offensive end, UMass returns Sam Breen who averaged 16.9 points per game and led the team on the glass with 9.2 boards a night. Breen was also the lone Minutewomen to earn A-10 Preseason honors by being placed on the Preseason All-Conference First Team. UMass was selected seventh in the preseason polls. 

COACH BURKE
Entering a monumental 30th season as the leader of the women's basketball team, Mary Burke returns for the 2020-21 season. Burke has been an instrumental member of not only the women's basketball program, but the entire athletic department at Bryant. Since graduating from Providence College in 1987, Burke was originally hired as an assistant coach in 1987 and held that position until being promoted on August 1, 1991. Burke has become one of the top coaches in the New England area, constantly pulling in nationally-recognized recruiting classes. She coached Sydney Holloway to Second Team All-NEC honors last season and Nicole Gallagher to the NEC All-Rookie squad. All time, Coach Burke has accumulated a 411-431 record. In Division I, Burke is 165-197.
 
MEET THE NEWCOMERS
Bryant welcomes six new faces, including five true freshmen and one junior transfer. The class is one of the most diverse that Bryant has ever seen as half hail from international backgrounds, Lucie Castagne (Paris, France), Fatou Jallow (Stockholm, Sweden), and Mariona Planes Fortuny (Bellpuig, Spain). Stephanie Mayerhofer, Nina Karlin, and Castagne represent the true freshman guards, while Juliette Golden and Fortuny add height to Bryant's frontcourt. Jallow transferred in from Salt Lake City Community College where she ranked as one of the top-100 junior college players in the country. 
 
BEGINNERS LUCK
Nicole Gallagher shined in her rookie debut with the Bulldogs in 2019-20 as she was selected for the NEC All-Rookie squad as the first Bryant freshman to earn the honor since Hannah Scanlan in 2017-18. Gallagher led the team with 52 made three-pointers and is the top returner with 61 assists. Starting in all 30 games in the Black and Gold, Gallagher tallied 940 minutes for an average of 31.7 minutes per game, as well as 273 points for an average of 9.1 points per game, which is the most by a Bryant rookie since Ivory Bailey in 2014-15. 
 
 
LUCKY YEAR NUMBER THREE
Brooke  Bjelko posted a standout junior season as she ranks as Bryant's top returning scorer after averaging 9.8 points per game and 10.8 against the NEC. The senior notched her first 20+ point game of her career with a career-high 23 points against Albany. 
 
70 AND BELOW
In all ten of Bryant's wins last season, the Bulldogs have held their opponents to under 70 points. The Black and Gold was 10-12 when holding opponents under 70 points and 0-8 when opponents scored more than 70. Bryant ranked fourth in the conference with a 63.4 scoring defense. 
 
YOUNG DAWGS
Bryant's upperclassmen are outnumbered 4-11 by the underclassmen on the team. Of the four upperclassmen, one is a junior transfer in Fatou Jallow. Despite Jallow being new to the team, she joins Bjelko and Gallagher as captains of the Black and Gold. With five true freshmen, one redshirt freshmen, and five sophomores, the Bulldogs are going to have a brand new look and feel to their lineups as they look to their returners for guidance.