SWARTHMORE, Pa. - The Bryn Mawr basketball team put on a tremendous first-half performance against Swarthmore earlier Thursday night, battling back from an early deficit to take a lead into the locker room at the half. The Owls shot over 50% from the floor and went four-for-five from beyond the arc in the opening half, helping them take just their second halftime lead of the season. Unfortunately, the roles reversed in the third quarter, as Swarthmore came out in a high pressure defense that forced nine Bryn Mawr turnovers and held the Owls without a basket in the frame. That led to a 25-2 run in the quarter, and though Bryn Mawr came back and won the fourth quarter, it was too late to impact the final result. Ultimately, Swarthmore earned a 74-54 win on the night, led by 16 points by Elizabeth Stiles. Bryn Mawr got double-digit scoring from three different players on the night, led by 12 points from Laya Paladugu and 10 more from Lipi Paladugu off the bench. Brendan Harrison also had a strong night for the Owls, as the Bryn Mawr guard led the team with nine rebounds, and she also dished out three assists as well.
Elizabeth Chan got the Owls off to a fast start with a layup just six seconds off of the opening tip. Swarthmore tied the game back up with a bucket of their own a minute later, but a deep three from Laya Paladugu put Bryn Mawr right back on top. The Garnet responded with a 6-0 run, allowing the hosts to take their first lead of the night, but the Owls stayed within striking distance. A jumper from Brendan Harrison fell, and then Chan assisted on another Laya Paladugu three-ball before knocking down a jumper of her own to keep it a one-point margin. Later on in the period, back-to-back baskets from Halena Martin and Lipi Paladugu tied the game back up at 16-all. The Garnet would close the period on a 6-2 run, but it was still just a four-point game at the first break.
The two teams continued to trade baskets to open the second period, but a mini-run from the Garnet helped the hosts build their lead up to eight points. However, the Owls remained calm the whole time, and slowly began to piece stops and scoring possessions together. Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson got things started with a made free throw, and then after a Swarthmore basket and Bryn Mawr timeout, Martin canned a three-pointer to make it a six-point game. That started a nice run for the Owls that also saw Harrison and Elizabeth-Robertson make baskets and, along with another bucket from Martin, the game was suddenly knotted back up at 33-33. A three-pointer from Stiles momentarily got the Garnet back out in front, but a layup from Laya Paladugu and two smooth free throws from Sydney Garner got the Owls back in the driver's seat with a 37-36 lead. The strong offense combined with some impressive defense by Bryn Mawr - the Owls held Swarthmore to just 28% shooting in the second quarter - allowed the visitors to take that advantage into the locker room at the half.
Unfortunately for the Owls, Swarthmore came out for the second half looking like a brand new team, and it all started with the defense. The Garnet changed up their defensive look in the second half, switching to a very aggressive three-quarter court press. Often, there were two or even at times three Swarthmore defenders above the half-court line putting pressure on the Bryn Mawr ball handlers, and the Owls had trouble breaking that pressure early on in the quarter. Swarthmore forced nine Bryn Mawr turnovers in the period, with six of them coming in the crucial opening four minutes of the quarter. That kept Bryn Mawr from being able to score while also leading to more easy baskets for the Garnet in the frame. Ultimately, Swarthmore was able to shoot 50% en route to 25 points in the quarter, while at the same time holding Bryn Mawr to just two free throws and no made baskets in the frame. That swung the pendulum of the game all the way in the other direction, giving the hosts a 61-39 advantage heading into the final quarter.
The Owls deserve plenty of credit for coming back strong in the fourth quarter and not simply hanging their heads and letting the reversal of fortunes get the better of them. Sydney Garner got Bryn Mawr off to a strong start with two more free throws, and later on she made a great pass from the high post to Cleo Elizabeth-Robertson standing all alone under the basket for an easy two points. Lipi Paladugu scored four straight points, and then after a layup from Martin, she tallied three more. Laya Paladugu would close the scoring for the Owls with two free throws, putting the seal on a much better final period performance for Bryn Mawr. The Owls only turned the ball over twice in the final ten minutes, and they outshot and outscored Swarthmore in that same time period, allowing Bryn Mawr to climb back to that final 20-point margin of 74-54.
Bryn Mawr will play their final road contest of the season on Saturday afternoon, as they close out this busy week with a matchup at Franklin & Marshall. Game time in Lancaster is slated for 1:00 PM on Saturday.