PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sophomore guard Taylor Will scored a career-high 20 points, classmate Shayna Mehta netted 18 points, and freshman Justine Gaziano posted 17 points to lead Brown University women's basketball to an 83-78 win over Howard University in both teams' season opener on Friday night at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
In their home debut, the Bears (1-0) overcame deficits at the half at 43-36 and with 3:45 to play in the fourth quarter at 72-65 to rally past the visiting Bison (0-1).
"I'm thrilled," Brown head coach Sarah Behn said. "You could see we had some jitters throughout parts of the game, but I think that's normal for game one. We responded, and we did some really smart things at both ends. I'm really excited about what we can do as a group as we keep getting better."
Will (Arlington Heights, Ill.) recorded her first career game in double figures, connecting on 12-of-15 shots from the free throw line and adding a team-high five steals.
Mehta (San Francisco, Calif.) – the unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year a season ago – scored her 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. Her 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining gave Brown the lead for good at 75-74.
In her collegiate debut, Gaziano (Natick, Mass.) tallied her 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and chipped in four rebounds.
Sophomore forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec) grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to go with nine points and four assists, and freshman guard Abby O'Keefe (St. Louis, Mo.) added nine points, four boards, and three assists.
Brown started the second half with eight unanswered points to pull ahead at 44-43 with Gaziano starting the run with a pair of driving layups just 37 seconds into the third quarter. A layup from Will pushed Brown's lead to 51-45 at the 5:44 mark of the third and capped a 15-2 run where five different Bears scored. Gaziano converted another layup in transition to give Brown a 57-53 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
The Bison countered with a 10-0 run to start the fourth frame, capturing a 63-57 lead with 6:50 left. Howard remained ahead 72-65 with 3:45 to go before Brown answered with a 14-2 streak beginning with a Steeves 3-pointer at the top of the key. After baskets from Gaziano and Steeves kept Brown within two points, Mehta canned a 3-pointer from the left corner to push the hosts up 75-54 with 2:21 left. Brown maintained its edge with a layup from O'Keefe and key free throws down the stretch.
Brown opened the game with a 7-5 lead after a wing 3-pointer from Mehta, but a 7-0 Howard run gave the Bison a 12-7 edge. An old-fashioned 3-point play from Will kept the Bears within 18-14, but the Bison closed the first quarter on an 8-1 run to take a 26-15 advantage after one period.
With Howard still leading 30-20 in the second quarter, junior guard Megan Reilly (Nowood, N.J.) started a 9-0 Brown run with a 3-pointer at the 7:56 mark. Will accounted for four points during the streak as the Bears cut the deficit to 30-29 with 5:38 left until halftime. A 3-point play from O'Keefe and a 3-pointer from freshman Kathleen Ryan (Clarence Center, N.Y.) cut it to 40-36 with 15 seconds to go in the half before Howard took a 43-36 lead into the break.
For Howard, Te'Shya Heslip logged game highs in points (23) and assists (nine) while Erin Blaine scored 17 points, and Sydni Johnson corralled a team-high eight rebounds.
Brown improved to 4-0 all-time vs. Howard and moved to 4-1 in its last five season openers. Against the Bison, the Bears held advantages in both points off turnovers (32-18) and fast break points (16-4).
Next, Brown plays its first road contest of the season at Sacred Heart on Monday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. prior to playing at Bryant on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
Video of all Brown women's basketball home contests and all Ivy League games, home and away, will be broadcast live on ILDN.TV/BROWN.
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.