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Women's Basketball Game 3 Preview: Who are the Bradley Braves?

Off to a 2-0 start to the year, the Bulls return to the Sun Dome on Tuesday for a matchup with the 2-1 Bradley Braves.. It's the first game of a women's and men's basketball doubleheader with Bradley.

Bradley University

Projected Starters:

- Catie O'Leary - Guard, 5-10 Redshirt Junior, Janesville, Wisconsin (Transer-Wisconsin)
- Kelsey Budd - Guard, 5-9 Junior, Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin
- Katie Yohn - Guard, 5-11 Senior, Elgin, Illinois
- Brooke Bisping - Guard, 5-8 Senior, Morton, Illinois
- Alyson Spinas-Valainis - Center, 6-3 Junior, Davenport, Iowa

Fresh off an exhilarating, overtime victory over Clemson last week, the University of South Florida women's basketball team will play host to the Bradley Braves in their third game of the season.

For those of you saying; "Bradley who?" I don't blame you for not being familiar with the Bulls' latest opponent. In fact, when I started looking at the Bulls' schedule, I couldn't even venture to guess where Bradley University was.

Firstly, the Braves call Peoria, Illinois home, but that's not important for the upcoming matchup. What is important is that Bradley is off to a 2-1 start to the season, including an impressive 83-77 win over at Illinois in their last contest. In that win, the Braves shot 62% in the first half, and 87.5% from beyond the arc. The Braves got a huge contribution from their reserves with 47 bench points.

Here is a preview for what the Bulls will see on Tuesday night:

The Braves will play a four-guard offense with Kelsey Budd, Katie Yohn, Brooke Bisping and Catie O'Leary. O'Leary will anchor the Braves offense. The redshirt junior transfer from Wisconsin leads the team with 14 points per game and had 15 points in the win over Illinois. Kelsey Budd is second on the team with 11 points per game. Budd, one of the team's top playmakers, will facilitate an offense that averages 69 points per game. Katie Yohn, a two-time All-Missouri Valley Conference honorable mention, surpassed 1,000 career points in 2011. Yohn one of just two seniors will be the leader on the floor Tuesday night. Bisping, the other senior on the roster, has a knack for getting to the rim and shoot well from inside the arc; going 6-7 so far this year.

Alyson Spinas-Valainis is the only starter in the frontcourt for Bradley. The 6'3" junior from Davenport, Iowa is one of three six-footers on the Braves' roster. Through the first three games, the career reserve is averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.

The Braves will dress a bench of 7 players, including sharpshooting junior Kelly Frings. The 6'1" forward Frings is third on the team averaging 8.3 points per game and is 4-6 from beyond the arc early in the year. The Braves will also look to Shondra Butts as a lift off the bench. The 2011-12 MVC All-Freshman Team honoree is tied for the team lead with 10 assists this year in 18 minutes a game.

Key Matchup:

Tuesday night's game will feature many intriguing match ups, but the one I will be keeping my eye on will be between USF senior Andrell Smith and Bradley redshirt-junior Catie O'Leary. Though Smith is coming off a career high 26 points versus Clemson, the Bulls will rely on the Lakeland product's defense against the Braves' leading scorer. Smith's quick feet and length may be able to neutralize O'Leary's slashing ability in the game.


Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickgryniewicz

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