PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sophomore guard Justine Gaziano scored a game-high 20 points as Brown University women's basketball defeated Providence College, 64-59, in the semifinals of the second annual Ocean State Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Hall.
In a re-match of last year's championship game from the Ocean State Tip-Off, the Bears (6-1) held a lead no larger than nine points but led for 39:14 of the game's 40 minutes and held off multiple charges from the host Friars (5-3), hitting 8-of-10 free throws in the final 2:22 to seal the win.
Brown will play Bryant in the tournament's championship game on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. back at Alumni Hall. The Bulldogs defeated Rhode Island in the second semifinal, 58-52.
"I'm really excited about the win," Brown head coach Sarah Behn said. "We followed the game plan defensively. I know how well Providence has been shooting the ball. We tried as hard as we could to limit their attempts. On the offensive side we can play a little smoother, but in general we did enough things to grind it out."
Gaziano (Natick, Mass.) netted her 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and tallied her fourth 20-point game of the season and the 10th of her career.
Junior guard Shayna Mehta (San Francisco, Calif.) scored 14 points – all in the second half – along with six rebounds while junior guard Taylor Will (Arlington Heights, Ill.) totaled 12 points, eight rebounds, and a season-high six assists.
Junior forward Erika Steeves (Montreal, Quebec) posted 12 points, and senior forward Janie White (Clarksville, Tenn.) finished with game highs in rebounds (nine) and blocks (four). Freshman point guard Dominique Leonidas (Stone Mountain, Ga.) added five rebounds.
"We knew coming in that Providence is a great team, and we knew it would be a tough battle," Gaziano said. "We were able to follow the game plan and limit their threes. On offense, we knew that if we do what we do and execute we would be able to win."
The Bears grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, using those opportunities to outscore the Friars, 17-9, in second-chance points. Brown forced PC into 17 turnovers, converting those into a 19-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
"I think it's a sign of growth that you can be a little off shooting the ball, but you have enough pieces in the puzzle to pull it out. Overall I'm pleased with the progression our team is making," Behn said.
After Will scored four straight points for the Bears, Mehta canned back-to-back 3-pointers to put Brown up 37-28 with 5:53 remaining in the third quarter. Layups from Mehta and Steeves, and a free throw from Leonidas kept the visitors ahead 42-38 heading to the fourth frame.
A 3-pointer from Steeves at the top of the key gave Brown a 45-38 lead with 7:58 to play before a corner trey from Gaziano out of a timeout kept the Bears up 50-44 with 5:52 left. A driving layup from Gaziano and a pull-up jumper from Mehta helped the visitors maintain a 54-50 edge with 2:55 to play, and Brown made 8-of-10 free throws inside of the final 2:22 to seal the win.
Steeves and Gaziano both hit 3-pointers inside of the first five minutes as Brown led Providence 8-6 midway through the opening quarter. A triple from the top of the key from sophomore forward Kathleen Ryan (Clarence Center, N.Y.) gave the Bears a 15-6 edge with 1:20 to go in the stanza, and Brown led 15-8 at the end of one.
After the Friars scored the first six points of the second quarter, a hook shot from Steeves and 3-pointer from Gaziano pushed Brown ahead 20-14 with 6:29 to go until halftime. A pair of layups from Gaziano kept the visitors up 26-21 at the 2:34 mark as Brown took a 26-24 edge into the locker room.
In the first half, the Bears held the Friars to 10-of-31 shooting (32.3 percent) from the field while the visitors shot 11-of-32 (34.4 percent) and 4-of-21 (19.0 percent) from behind the arc.
For Providence, Maddie Jolin totaled team highs in points (16) and rebounds (nine) while Ny-Asia Franklin and Jovana Nogic netted 14 and 13 points apiece.
Brown improved to 9-19 all-time vs. Providence … The Bears beat the Friars at Alumni Hall for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002 … Taylor Will has scored in double figures in all seven games this season and 27 times in her career … Shayna Mehta has scored in double figures in six games this season and 49 times in her career. She now has 940 career points … Justine Gaziano has scored in double figures six times this year and 27 times in her career … Erika Steeves scored in double figures the third time in the last four games and for the 32nd time in her career … Brown has now started the season at 6-1 through seven games for the fourth time in program history (1973-74, 2004-05, 2015-16).
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.