PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sophomore guard and Tournament MVP Justine Gaziano scored a game-high 26 points to lead Brown University women's basketball to a 72-60 win over Bryant University as the Bears won their second straight Ocean State Tip-Off Tournament championship on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Hall.
"I'm really excited for Brown that we were able to hold onto the cup and bring it back to Brown for another year," Brown head coach Sarah Behn said. "That's not an easy job with all the good teams in the tournament and not playing at home."
In the championship game of the second annual event, the Bears (7-1) scored the final 14 points of the second quarter to take a 34-17 halftime lead, gained an advantage as large as 22 points in the third quarter, and held off a late rally from the Bulldogs (1-7).
Brown won the inaugural event last season with wins over Rhode Island and Providence. The Bears have now claimed tournament titles in each of the last two weekends as the team won the Turkey Tip Off at the University of the Pacific last weekend (Nov. 24-25).
"I'm proud of my whole team and really grateful for the opportunity to play in the second annual Ocean State Tip-Off Tournament," Behn said.
Gaziano (Natick, Mass.) scored her season-high 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field and 2-of-5 shooting from 3-point distance. She scored over 20 points in a game for the fifth time this season and for the 11th time in her career. She led all scorers at the tournament with 23.0 points per game.
"It's really great to come out here and play all of these Rhode Island teams," Gaziano said. "It's such a great group of players and really competitive. It's nice to be able to bring it home again."
Junior guard and All-Tournament Team honoree Taylor Will (Arlington Heights, Ill.) netted 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting and tied her career high with five steals. She has scored in double figures in all eight games this season.
"It means a lot to all of us – and Brown as a whole – to bring the cup back and represent our school successfully," Will said.
Junior guard Shayna Mehta (San Francisco, Calif.) totaled 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds, a career-high seven steals, a team-high four assists, and a career-high two blocks. She also posted seven steals on Wednesday against Holy Cross.
Junior forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec) tied for the team high with eight rebounds, freshman guard Dominique Leonidas (Stone Mountain, Ga.) contributed a season-high seven points and a team-high four assists, senior forward Janie White (Clarksville, Tenn.) grabbed six rebounds, and junior forward Mary Butler (Bangor, Maine) chipped in four boards and two blocks.
The Bears outscored the Bulldogs 20-2 in fast break points to defeat Bryant for the second time this season and win their fifth straight game. Brown topped Bryant, 85-62, in its season opener on Nov. 12. The Bears have tied for the best start in school history through eight games. Brown also began the season 7-1 in 1973-74 and in 2015-16.
Gaziano and Will combined to score the Bears' first 13 points, with eight points coming in transition, as Brown led 13-6 with 2:34 to go in the first quarter. A 3-pointer from Mehta from the top of the key put the Bears up 16-8, and Brown still led 16-12 at the end of the stanza.
Sophomore forward Kathleen Ryan (Clarence Center, N.Y.) connected on a 3-pointer from the wing to open the second quarter before Bryant pulled within 20-17 with 6:02 to go until halftime.
Brown responded with a 14-0 run to close the half, taking a 34-17 edge at the break. Will started the burst with eight straight points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Leonidas, Gaziano, and Mehta each converted a basket to close the run. The Bears outscored the Bulldogs 18-5 in the second frame.
In the first half, Brown led in points off turnovers (16-0) and fast break points (12-0) while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-point distance. The Bears held Bryant to 26.7 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
After Bryant pulled within 42-30 with 5:09 to go in the third quarter, the Bears scored 10 straight points to take their largest lead at 52-30 at the 2:01 mark. Leonidas scored four points during the run before Gaziano capped it with a fast break layup. Another layup in transition from Gaziano kept the Bears up 54-37 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Bears held a double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter and gained a margin as large as 18 points inside of the final three minutes. Gaziano converted a pair of conventional 3-point plays inside of the quarter's first four minutes to give Brown a 64-47 lead with 6:03 remaining. Gaziano connected on a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 69-51 with 2:59 left, and the Bears fended off a late rally from the Bulldogs.
For Bryant, Sydney Holloway posted a double-double on 23 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Masey Zegaraowski and Naomi Ashley netted 12 and 10 points apiece, and Hannah Scanlan grabbed 11 rebounds.
Next, Brown hosts Sacred Heart on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. (ILN) at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
Brown improved to 7-4 all-time vs. Bryant … Justine Gaziano scored in double figures for the seventh time this season and for the 28th time in her career. She posted two of the three 20-point games in the tournament … Shayna Mehta scored in double figures for the 50th time in her career and for the seventh time on the season. She now has 953 career points … Taylor Will scored in double figures for the 28th time in her career. She earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team for the second straight year after winning Tournament MVP honors last winter … Brown claimed its third consecutive de facto state title. In 2015-16 the Bears defeated Providence, Rhode Island, and Bryant in the same season for the first time in program history.
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.