NEW BRITAIN â€“ For the second time in as many games, the CCSU womenâ€™s basketball teamâ€™s hopes of a conference win were doomed by a second-half surge by Bryant.
The Bulldogs, who used an 11-0 fourth quarter run to beat the Blue Devils exactly a week ago, opened the second half of Saturday afternoonâ€™s contest with an 11-2 run and cruised to a 62-51 win after leading by just one at halftime.
â€śI donâ€™t know what it is,â€ť assistant coach Kerri Reaves said. â€śItâ€™s a little bugaboo for us. Weâ€™re taking good shots, but maybe if the first couple of shots donâ€™t fall, we start to get a little tentative. Without that third quarter today, we put points on the board. We wanted to score at least 15 in every quarter, but we didnâ€™t get that done.â€ť
Bryant led by as much as 22 in the second half, and CCSU pulled to within seven in the final minutes of the fourth quarter before succumbing to its fifth straight loss, largely due to being outscored 19-4 in the third.
â€śOffensively, we really struggled to get something going,â€ť Ashley Forker said after leading the team with 13 points. â€śWe had a lot of turnovers.â€ť
Both teams traded baskets in the early going, with Forever Toppin picking off a pass and driving the length of the floor for an easy layup to give CCSU an 8-6 lead. But Bryant answered with a corner three from Nicole Gallagher and a steal by Trinity Bravo on the ensuing possession, leading to a transition bucket to give the Bulldogs an 11-8 advantage.
Bryant held its three-point edge into the final minute of the opening quarter, when Kandis Taylor came alive with a jumper with 27 seconds left and another just before the buzzer to send the Bulldogs into the second with a 19-12 lead.
Toppin led the Blue Devils out of the first-quarter break, putting home another layup off a turnover and knocking down a pair of free throws to pull CCSU within three. Toppinâ€™s hot streak continued with 8:12 left in the half when she drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 19, concluding what was her own personal 7-0 run to open the second quarter.
â€śForever Toppin really stepped up,â€ť Forker said. â€śWe werenâ€™t scoring much and she got to the rack and started attacking. We started getting by them and started getting turnovers, which was the big thing. We got a bunch of layups off turnovers.â€ť
Emma McCamus kept the run going for CCSU, burying a three with 6:50 to go to put the Blue Devils in front. The run concluded at 13-0 when Tiffany Slicklein hit a pair of free throws, and Bryantâ€™s offense finally woke back up after, tying the game at 28 apiece in the waning minutes of the half thanks to a pair of foul shots from Gallagher.
McCamus put CCSU back in front with a lefty layup, but Bravo answered with a straightaway three to send the Bulldogs to the locker room with a one-point lead in a quarter that was otherwise dominated by the Blue Devils.
â€śWe got up and pressured the ball and were able to score some turnovers,â€ť Reaves said. â€śWe defended really well.â€ť
Bryant extended its lead to eight early in the third quarter, and after an emphatic block by Bravo on a drive from Toppin, the Bulldogs opened the lead up to 10 on a basket from Sydney Holloway, prompting a timeout from CCSU, which had watched Bryant open the third with an 11-2 run.
Slicklein finally broke Bryantâ€™s run with a tough layup while absorbing contact, but Holloway absorbed some of her own on the other end, drawing a foul while finishing a layup for a 3-point play, putting the Bulldogs ahead by 16. Holloway, who finished with a game-high 19 points off the bench, continued to dominate, getting inside for another layup with seven minutes left to extend the lead to 22.
Danielle Delano cut the deficit to 14 on a turnaround layup with three minutes left, and a 3-pointer from Forker trimmed it to 11 with just over two minutes remaining. Another bucket from Forker pulled the Blue Devils to within seven with one minute left, but Bryant knocked down its free throws down the stretch to prevent a monumental collapse.
â€śThatâ€™s the thing about our team,â€ť Forker said. â€śWeâ€™re not going to go down easy. Even if things look bad, weâ€™re going to keep fighting.â€ť