Gaziano, Will, Mehta Push Women’s Hoops Past Bryant in Opener, 85-62

Gaziano, Will, Mehta Push Women’s Hoops Past Bryant in Opener, 85-62

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sophomore guard Justine Gaziano scored 23 points, and junior guards Taylor Will and Shayna Mehta netted 17 and 16 points apiece as Brown University women's basketball beat Bryant University, 85-62, in its season opener on Sunday afternoon at the Pizzitola Sports Center.

In their home debut, the Bears (1-0) held a 40-34 lead at halftime, outscored the visitors 20-10 in the third quarter, and built a lead as large as 24 points in the fourth quarter on the way to the in-state victory over the Bulldogs (0-2).

"I'm really happy to get this win," Brown head coach Sarah Behn said. "Bryant is really well coached and is always physical. I do think we can play better and take care of the ball better, but when I look up and see 85 points – and we come out with a win – I'm pleased."

Gaziano (Natick, Mass.) connected on a career-high 10-of-11 free throws and scored 20 or more points in a game for the seventh time in her career. Will (Arlington Heights, Ill.) tied her career high with seven rebounds, dished out five assists, and made 6-of-9 field goals. Mehta (San Francisco, Calif.) hit 4-of-8 shots from 3-point distance and added five boards.

Senior forward Janie White (Clarksville, Tenn.) corralled a game-high 11 rebounds to go with five points and four blocks. Junior forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec) totaled nine points, eight boards, and four assists, and freshman guard Dominique Leonidas (Stone Mountain, Ga.) distributed a game-high six assists in her collegiate debut.

"As a team we really prepared for this game," Gaziano said. "Bryant is a great team from our own state so we knew it was going to be a battle. We really worked hard in the preseason and were so excited to come out for this first game."

The Bears forced the Bulldogs into 26 turnovers and held advantages in fast break points (25-4) and points off turnovers (27-13). In the fourth quarter, Brown hit 9-of-18 shots from the field and 4-of-7 shots from deep. For the game, the Bears shot 81.8 percent (18-of-22) from the free throw line.

Brown started the game with a 7-0 run in the opening 1:41 behind five points from Gaziano. Back-to-back baskets from Steeves later gave the Bears an 11-4 edge. After an 8-0 Bryant run, Will converted a 3-point play to put Brown back up 14-12 with 3:34 left in the first quarter. Brown held a 17-15 lead after one.

A 3-pointer from Steeves sparked a 7-0 run as the hosts remained ahead 24-19 with 6:43 to go in the half. After Bryant pulled within 29-28 with 3:57 left in the second quarter, the Bears went on an 11-3 run, including a 3-pointer from Leonidas and four points from White, to gain a 40-31 margin. The hosts carried a 40-34 advantage into the break.

The Bears opened up the half on a 15-5 burst, claiming a 55-39 lead with 5:32 to play in the third quarter. During the run, Gaziano connected on a corner 3-pointer before Will scored five straight points. Gaziano tallied the Bears' last five points of the frame as Brown led 60-44 heading to the fourth quarter.

Sophomore forward Kathleen Ryan (Clarence Center, N.Y.) hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth frame, helping Brown take a 65-44 lead with 8:44 remaining. After Bryant cut its deficit to 68-56, Mehta canned back-to-back 3-pointers to put Brown up 74-56 with 5:07 left. Another 3-pointer from Mehta inside of the final four minutes sparked a 7-0 run to seal the win.

For Bryant, Sydney Holloway posted team highs with 19 points and nine rebounds, Stephanie Lesko netted 11 points, and Kathleen Everson added 10 points.

Next, Brown plays its first road contest of the season at Central Connecticut State on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7:00 p.m. 

Game Notes:
Brown improved to 5-1 in its last six season openers … The Bears moved to 6-4 all-time vs. Bryant … Shayna Mehta has averaged 22.3 points per game in three career contests vs. Bryant. She has now scored in double figures in 44 career games. Mehta netted 11 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter … Taylor Will has now scored in double figures in 21 career games … Justine Gaziano has now scored in double figures in 22 career games … Dominique Leonidas and Jenna Benzinger each made her collegiate debut … Brown scored over 80 points in its season debut after eclipsing the 80-point mark nine times in 2016-17.

Video of all Brown women's basketball home contests and all Ivy League games, home and away, will be broadcast live on the Ivy League Network.

Tickets for all Brown women's basketball games can be purchased online, by calling the Brown Athletics Ticket Office at (401) 863-2773, or by walking up to the box office located in the Pizzitola Sports Center, open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.