Owls Start Strong in Season-Opener, but Fall to Southern Virginia's Comeback Effort

Owls Start Strong in Season-Opener, but Fall to Southern Virginia's Comeback Effort

BRYN MAWR, Pa. - The Bryn Mawr basketball team got their 2017-18 campaign started earlier Thursday night against the Knights of Southern Virginia University. In the first-ever meeting between these two programs, it was the Knights who came away victorious in tonight's affair, claiming an 88-59 win. Alexus Barnes led all scorers on the night for SVU with a 19-point effort, while Shelby Butler added 18 more off the bench. For Bryn Mawr, there were still plenty of bright spots despite the tough result, including an impressive 17-point night for Laya Paladugu in her Bryn Mawr debut.

The Owls got their night off to a very strong start thanks to great effort all around in the opening five minutes of play. The first play of the contest set a great early tone for Bryn Mawr, as Laya Paladugu earned a steal just 11 seconds into play that led to a breakaway layup for Halena Martin. A few possessions later, Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson would double the Bryn Mawr advantage by drawing a foul and making the two free throws. SVU finally got on the board with a three-pointer a couple minutes into the game, but Bryn Mawr immediately built their advantage back up thanks to two made jumpers from Paladugu. Later, Sydney Garner got in on the action with a very impressive post move and finish, and then Elizabeth-Robertson drained a jumper to put Bryn Mawr up 12-7. Just a minute later, Garner drew a foul and promptly nailed the ensuing free throws to make it a seven-point advantage for the Owls.

Unfortunately for Bryn Mawr, that would be the largest their advantage would get for the rest of the night. Suddenly the Owls started to cough the ball up, and the Knights immediately capitalized on those extra opportunities. Southern Virginia went on an 11-0 run over the next two-and-a-half minutes of play to vault ahead 18-14. The Owls tried to answer right back, as a jumper from Elizabeth-Robertson got Bryn Mawr back within two. However, the Knights continued to accelerate away, and by the end of the first quarter, they led 24-18.

The second quarter started in a similar fashion to how the first ended, as Southern Virginia started the frame on a 7-0 run. Halena Martin put a stop to that thanks to a smooth jumper, and then a little later Brendan Harrison got her first bucket of the season on a nice drive and layup halfway through the quarter. That made basket drew the Owls back within single digits of their opponents, but just as it seemed Bryn Mawr might be putting a comeback together, the Knights nailed home a dagger of a basket. Right after Harrison's layup, Southern Virginia came down to the other end and used some nice ball movement to find Bryndie Ballam wide open for an easy three-pointer. That made it a 34-22 lead for the Knights, and Bryn Mawr would unfortunately not get within single digits for the rest of the night. Elizabeth-Robertson got the next Bryn Mawr basket, and then Halena Martin earned a pair of buckets herself, but at the halftime break, Southern Virginia led by a score of 44-28.

The Knights kept the pressure on in the third quarter, opening with another run of six straight points. Laya Paladugu got back in on the action in a big way to stop that rally, driving hard to the left side of the basket for a layup plus a foul. The New Jersey native made the ensuing free throw as well, drawing Bryn Mawr back within 20. Meagan Murray-Bruce scored her first points of the night a few minutes later, and Paladugu stayed hot with seven more points in the quarter, including a deep three from the wing. However, as the quarter ended, the Knights held a 78-43 advantage. The fourth quarter was a similar story, with Brendan Harrison scoring four early points, but the Owls unable to generate much more momentum. Lone Bryn Mawr senior Kara Breeden ended the night on a positive note, scoring the first points of her final campaign thanks to two made free throws. However, nothing could stop the Knights on this evening, as they ultimately cruised away to the 88-59 win.

Martin's 12-point night followed just behind Paladugu's team-leading 17-point effort, while Elizabeth-Robertson chipped in another eight points despite playing with foul trouble most of the night. Martin also earned 13 rebounds in the contest, giving her a fourth-career double-double. Murray-Bruce also had a solid night on the glass for the Owls, pulling down 10 boards of her own. The Knights shot the ball very well, making baskets at a 45% clip in the contest. Besides their two main scoring leaders, Katie Garrish also hit double-digits with a 10-point effort in tonight's contest.

The Owls will be right back in action in just two days as they continue their season-opening homestand with a tilt against Rosemont on Saturday. That game will be a revenge game for Bryn Mawr, as they look to get some payback for a tough 75-52 loss to the Ravens last season. Game time on Saturday in the Class of 1958 Gymnasium is set for 1:00 PM.