Women’s Basketball Hosts Bryant on Sunday in 2017-18 Season Opener

Women’s Basketball Hosts Bryant on Sunday in 2017-18 Season Opener

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Brown University women's basketball raises the curtain on its 2017-18 season when the Bears host in-state rival Bryant University on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (ILN/Facebook Live) inside the Pizzitola Sports Center, coming off a season in which the team qualified for the inaugural Ivy League Tournament.

Vs. Bryant: Live Video (ILN) | Live Video (Facebook Live) | Live Stats | Tickets
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Game Notes: Brown vs. Bryant 

Video of all home contests and all Ivy League games, home and away, will be broadcast live on the Ivy League Network. Fans can subscribe and view games by purchasing yearly, monthly, or daily packages.

Brown tips off the Ivy League's Facebook Live Week with its match-up against Bryant on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. As part of the initiative, the Bears will simulcast their ILN broadcast on the Brown Athletics Facebook Page. In order to watch the game, fans can like the Brown Athletics page on Facebook and then head to the page at the start of the game. 

Brown will make at least 13 appearances on external broadcast platforms during the 2017-18 season, including six games on ESPN3. In addition to their six contests on ESPN3, the Bears will feature twice on the NESN family of networks, twice on Cox Yurview, twice on myRITV, and once on Eleven Sports. In total, 10 of Brown's 14 Ivy League games will appear on external broadcast platforms, including all eight of the Bears' Friday night conference games. Brown's six games on ESPN3 comprise at Dartmouth (Jan. 26), Penn (Feb. 2), at Cornell (Feb. 9), Harvard (Feb. 16), Columbia (Feb. 23), and at Princeton (Mar. 2). 

Brown was picked to finish fourth in the 2017-18 Ivy League Women's Basketball Preseason Media Poll, the Ivy League conference office announced on Oct. 25. Defending league champion Penn took the top spot in the poll with 12 first-place votes and 129 total points. Princeton followed in second with five first-place votes and 110 total points while Harvard (98 points) and Brown (87) rounded out the top half of the poll. Yale (64), Cornell (48), Columbia (42), and Dartmouth (24) filled out the fifth through eighth slots, in order. 

The Bears return 94 percent of their scoring, 95 percent of their rebounding, and all five starters from a team that earned a berth in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament last season and gained the program's first win in a national postseason tournament at the Women's Basketball Invitational. 

For the first time in program history – based off statistics available from the NCAA era (1981-82 to present) – Brown held four 300-point scorers on its roster in a single season. In 2016-17, guard Shayna Mehta '19 (San Francisco, Calif.), guard Justine Gaziano '20 (Natick, Mass.), forward Erika Steeves '19 (Montreal, Quebec), and guard Taylor Will '19 (Arlington Heights, Ill.) tallied 470, 397, 373, and 368 points respectively. Brown has carried three 300-point scorers in a single season three previous times – 2015-16, 1991-92, and 1984-85 – but never had a quartet of players reach the threshold prior to last year. 

As a team last season, the Bears led the Ivy League in points per game (72.3), field goals made per game (26.0), 3-pointers made per game (7.5), and field goal percentage (42.0) while ranking second in free throws made per game (12.8), 3-point percentage (35.5), and free throw percentage (73.9). The Bears carried two of the top three, three of the top eight, and four of the top 11 scorers in the Ivy League with Justine Gaziano '20 (Natick, Mass.), Shayna Mehta '19 (San Francisco, Calif.), Erika Steeves '19 (Montreal, Quebec), and Taylor Will '19 (Arlington Heights, Ill.), averaging 16.5, 15.7, 12.9, and 12.3 points per game on the year respectively. 

Sophomore guard Justine Gaziano (Natick, Mass.) emerged as a potent scorer last season as a rookie, earning Second Team All-Ivy honors and ranking second in the Ivy League with 16.5 points per game. She stood second in the league in field goals made per game (5.9) and third in field goal percentage (47.5). Gaziano scored in double figures in each of 21 games, netted 20 or more points six times, and eclipsed 30 points twice. She gained USBWA National Freshman of the Week accolades after netting 33 points at Princeton (Jan. 13), the eighth-most in a single game in school history, on 13-of-22 shooting. 

Junior guard Shayna Mehta (San Francisco, Calif.) has enjoyed back-to-back successful seasons to open her collegiate career, gaining Second Team All-Ivy and Ivy League All-Tournament Team honors in 2016-17 after winning Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2015-16. A season ago she won Ivy League Player of the Week three times and ranked third in the Ivy League in points per game (15.7), second in 3-pointers made per game (2.1), third in 3-point percentage (39.2), and third in field goals made per game (5.8). She enters the 2017-18 season with 810 career points and 124 career made 3-pointers – ranking fourth all-time at Brown. In her career, she has scored in double figures 43 times and netted 20 or more points 13 times. 

Junior forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec) returns as one of the Bears' most experienced frontcourt players after earning a spot on the Ivy League All-Tournament Team last winter. She ranked eighth in the Ivy League in points per game (12.9), fourth in rebounds per game (8.4), and first in defensive rebounds per game (7.1) in 2016-17. Steeves totaled six double-doubles last year, scored in double figures 19 times, and netted 20 or more points four times. She also garnered 2016-17 CoSIDA Academic All-District plaudits 

Junior guard Taylor Will (Arlington Heights, Ill.) took a major step forward in her development last season pushing her scoring from 1.7 points per game as a freshman to 12.3 points per game as a sophomore – an increase of 10.6 points per game. Last winter, she earned Ocean State Tip-Off Tournament MVP honors and gained Ivy League Player of the Week accolades on Dec. 5. Will ranked 11th in the Ivy League in points per game (12.3), fifth in free throws made per game (3.5), and fourth in steals per game (1.7) a season ago. 

Senior forward Janie White (Clarksville, Tenn.) enters her final season with 125 career blocks, ranking fourth all-time at Brown. After studying abroad in Switzerland during the fall 2016 semester, she returned to the team last spring, playing in 14 games and leading the Bears with 1.7 blocks per game. White played a pivotal role in the team's run to the Ivy League Tournament, scoring a career-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with four steals at Columbia on Mar. 3. 

Junior forward Mary Butler (Bangor, Maine) adds to Brown's experience in the frontcourt after playing in all 30 games last winter – one of four Bears to appear in every game last season. She earned Ocean State Tip-Off All-Tournament Team honors and made 23 starts a year ago, including 12 of the last 13 games of the season. Last year, Butler averaged 23.4 minutes, 4.3 points, and 4.4 rebounds per game. 

Senior guard Megan Reilly (Norwood, N.J.) will act as a captain for the Bears for the second straight season and returns as Brown's most veteran player, having played 84 career games. She played in all 30 games last year with 11 starts and ranked second in the Ivy League in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2). Reilly averaged 18.2 minutes, 3.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game last year. 

Junior forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec), junior guard Shayna Mehta (San Francisco, Calif.), and senior guard Megan Reilly (Norwood, N.J.) all engaged in significant projects off the court this summer. Steeves spent 23 days traveling through China, studying the market for amateur and professional basketball there through a Royce Fellowship for Sport and Society. Mehta spent 18 days in Chennai, India with Crossover Basketball Academy, using basketball as a vehicle to impact the education rates of marginalized communities there. Reilly spent her summer in New York City interning for the NBA G League's Business Operations team. 

Junior forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec) took part in a pair of camps with Canada Basketball's Women's National Team in the summer of 2017. Steeves competed in the program's Assessment Camp from May 12-22 in Edmonton, Alberta and in the organization's Development Team Tryouts from July 29 to August 8 in Toronto, Ontario. 

Erika Steeves '19 (Montreal, Quebec) and Shayna Mehta '19 (San Francisco, Calif.) both earned spots on the inaugural Ivy League Women's Basketball All-Tournament Team. In the Bears' semifinal match-up with Penn, Steeves recorded her sixth double-double of the year on 18 points and 12 rebounds while Mehta netted a team-high 19 points, hitting 5-of-11 shots from 3-point distance. 

Guard Shayna Mehta '19 (San Francisco, Calif.) and guard Justine Gaziano '20 (Natick, Mass.) both garnered Second Team All-Ivy honors last winter, becoming the first pair of Bears to earn Second Team All-Ivy or better since 2006. At the end of the regular season, Mehta stood fourth in the league in points per game, second in steals per game, and fifth in assists per game while Gaziano ranked second in the conference in points per game, third in field goal percentage, and fourth in 3-point percentage. 

Forward Erika Steeves '19 (Montreal, Quebec) gained 2016-17 CoSIDA First Team Academic All-District accolades. In order to earn CoSIDA Academic All-District honors, a student-athlete must participate as a starter or an important reserve, have reached sophomore academic standing, and maintain at least a 3.30 cumulative grade point average. 

Brown recorded its first-ever win in a national postseason tournament with an 81-75 win over UMBC in the first round of the WBI, joining the 1993-94 team's win in an Ivy League playoff game as the program's only other postseason win. The team's 17 wins last season marked the most victories for the Bears since the team won 18 games in back-to-back seasons in 2004-05 and 2005-06. 

After going 15-13 overall in 2015-16 and 17-13 in 2016-17, Brown posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since registering four straight seasons above .500 from 2002-06. Brown's 7-7 mark in Ivy League play stood as the Bears' first season at .500 or better in league play since going 7-7 and finishing in fourth place in 2011-12. 

Last winter, Brown set single-season program records for games played (30), points (2,169), field goals made (779), 3-pointers made (226), and free throw percentage (.739). 

For the first time in the history of the Ivy League, four women's basketball teams competed in the postseason last year. Penn earned the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship while Princeton gained the conference's automatic bid into the WNIT. Harvard garnered an at-large spot into the WNIT, and Brown made its first-ever appearance in the WBI. 

Brown won the inaugural Ocean State Tip-Off Tournament last winter, defeating Rhode Island, 76-65, in the semifinals on Dec. 3 and topping previously undefeated Providence College, 77-70, in the championship game. Guard Taylor Will '19 (Arlington Heights, Ill.) earned Tournament MVP honors after leading all scorers with 18.5 points per game, and forward Mary Butler '19 (Bangor, Maine) gained All-Tournament Team accolades. 

Senior guard Megan Reilly (Norwood, N.J.) and junior forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec) will serve the Bears as captains during the 2017-18 season. Reilly is set to act as a captain for Brown for the second straight year.

Brown welcomes five student-athletes to the program in its Class of 2021. The group includes center Jenna Benzinger (Williamstown, Mass.), forward Morgan Clausen (Algonquin, Ill.), guard McKenna Dale (Storrs, Conn.), guard Dominique Leonidas (Stone Mountain, Ga.), and guard/forward Savannah Lewis (Westlake Village, Calif.). 

Brown head coach Sarah Behn made two tweaks to her staff during the offseason, promoting Jeffrey Kirpas – the team's operations coordinator in 2016-17 – to an assistant coach position and hiring Sophie Albano-Alisberg as the team's new operations coordinator. 

Brown is set to open its 45th season of women's basketball on Sunday. The Bears have registered an 18-26 record all-time in season openers. Brown has won its last three openers and four of its last five season debuts. At 10-1 through 11 games, the Bears began 2015-16 with their best start since going 11-1 in 1973-74. Brown opened the year 5-0 for the first time in school history before falling at Manhattan. The team started 4-0 in the 1990-91 season and in the 1974-75 campaign. In 2004-05 the Bears notched a 6-1 start. 

With a 10-6 mark in non-conference games last winter, Brown posted its fifth-most non-conference wins in program history. With a 12-2 mark in non-conference contests in 2015-16, Brown finished second in program history for non-conference victories in a season. The Bears went 13-2 in non-league games in 1974-75 and notched 11 such wins in 1973-74 and 1975-76. The team captured nine non-conference triumphs in 1991-92, 1990-91, and 2011-12. 

Brown and Bryant have met nine times with the Bears holding a slight 5-4 edge in the all-time series. Brown is 2-2 at home and 3-2 on the road in the series. The Bulldogs took last season's match-up 70-67 at the Chace Athletic Center. Junior guard Shayna Mehta (San Francisco, Calif.) has averaged 25.5 points per game in two career games vs. Bryant. 

In 2016-17, Bryant went 18-14 overall and 11-7 in Northeast Conference play as the Bulldogs advanced to the championship game of the NEC tournament. Bryant was picked to finish third in the 2017-18 NEC preseason poll and will open its season at Boston College prior to playing Brown. Key returners for the Bulldogs include Sydney Holloway (8.3 points per game), Kierra Palmer (4.8 assists per game), and Naomi Ashley (6.1 rebounds per game). 

After hosting Bryant on Sunday, Brown competes in its first road contest of the year, playing at Central Connecticut State on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7:00 p.m. 

Brown will look to compete at the second annual Ivy League Tournament, which is set to return to The Palestra in Philadelphia, Pa., from Mar. 10-11, 2017. Semifinals for the tournament will take place at 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Mar. 10 on ESPN3, and the final for the tournament will tip off at 4:00 p.m. on Mar. 11 on ESPNU.

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.