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Bryant opens NEC play vs. St. Francis Brooklyn

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

SMITHFIELD, R.I. - The Bryant University women's basketball team looks to extend on its first winning streak of the season when they open Northeast Conference play with St. Francis Brooklyn on Tuesday, December 8 at 7 p.m. Tuesday's game is the first of two back-to-back games with the Terriers in Smithfield as part of the new NEC schedule format for the 2020-21 season. Despite entering conference play, there are still no fans allowed in the Chace Athletic Center, but as always the game can be streamed free of charge on NEC Front Row. 

THE PARTICULARS
Opponent: St. Francis Brooklyn
Location: 
Chace Athletic Center (Smithfield, R.I.)
Game Time:
 7:00 p.m.
Live Stats:
 Sidearm Stats
Watch Live:
 NEC Front Row
Game Notes:
 Game 5 - St. Francis Brooklyn
Social Media: 
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | #AllHeart | #AllHustle | #NECWBB

THE MATCHUP
Bryant opens the NEC schedule with back-to-back games against St. Francis Brooklyn beginning on Tuesday, December 8 at 7pm followed by a 4pm tip on Wednesday, December 9 in Smithfield. 
 
The Bulldogs hold the all-time series record against the Terriers, 14-8, after splitting the series last season at one apiece. The last time the two teams met was in Brooklyn when the Bulldogs fell by just three, 80-77. Bryant took the first meeting in 2019-20, 78-59, in Smithfield thanks to four Bulldogs who notched double-figure scoring led by Sydney Holloway '20 with 22 points and 14 rebounds. 
 
SCOUTING THE TERRIERS
 
St. Francis Brooklyn opens its 2020-21 season in Smithfield. Last season the Terriers posted an 8-21 overall record and was 4-14 in NEC play. The Terriers lost four from a year ago and return six while adding four new faces to the squad. They also return NEC Rookie of the Year Nevena Dimitrijevic who combined for 58 points in both games against the Bulldogs last season. She first dropped 31 points in Bryant's 78-59 triumph followed by a 27 point performance in Brooklyn in an 80-77 decision in the Terrier's favor. St. Francis Brooklyn is led by Linda Cimino in her third season at the helm. 
 
LAST TIME OUT: IONA
The Bulldogs enter Tuesday with a 2-2 non-conference record after a dominating performance at Iona, 62-46. Senior Brooke Bjelko led the Bulldogs with a career-high 29 points and 16 rebounds. The 6-3 center also got it done on both ends of the floor with three blocks. Senior counterpart Kandis Taylor also notched double-figures with a career-high 10 points and nine rebounds. Taylor filled the stat sheet with six assists and career-best five steals in the longest game of her career with 33 minutes of playing time. 
 
The duo helped the Black and Gold post its best field goal percentage so far on the season with 42.3% off 22-of-52 shooting. The Gaels didn't have an answer for the strong paint presence of the Bulldogs as they outrebounded Iona, 45-33. 
 
SENIOR SZN
Brooke Bjelko opened tallied three double-doubles during the first four games of the season highlighted by a career performance at Iona with a career-high 29 points and 16 rebounds. Bjelko finished the game with an added three blocks on the defensive end. Bjelko was also awarded the first two NEC Player of the Week nods as she averages a double-double with 17.3 ppg and 12.5 rebounds per game. The 6-3 center ranks fourth nationally for her four double-doubles and 50 total rebounds. 
 
I WANT KANDY
Kandis Taylor had a career game at Iona on Dec. 4 with a career-high 10 points, nine rebounds, and five steals. She also tied her career-best with 6 assists. Taylor averages 4 assists a night and ranks second in the NEC in both assists per game and total assists with 16 after the first four games. 
 
DOMINATING THE GLASS
Bryant is known for its dominating rebounders and nothing has changed in the 2020-21 season. Despite being outrebounded against UMass to open the season, the Bulldogs outrebounded all other opponents in PC, UNH, and Iona. Bryant outrebounded both UNH and Iona by double-digits, 44-33, against UNH and 45-33 at Iona, followed by a 39-33 performance over the Friars. Brooke Bjelko leads the Black and Gold with 50 on the year which ranks her fourth nationally out of 140 players. 
 
WEEKLY AWARDS
Bryant swept the first of the NEC weekly awards when senior Brooke Bjelko earned Player of the Week and redshirt freshman Shannon O'Connor earned Rookie of the Week honors. The 4-5 duo has put up consistent numbers and even set new career-bests to kick off the season. Bjelko followed it up with her second-straight Player of the Week nod after a career-best game of 29 points, 16 rebounds at Iona.