Bradley (11-15) at Illinois State (13-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 15, 7:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Redbird Arena (10,000) -- Normal, Illinois. Television: ESPN3, Comcast SportsNet. Home Record: BU 10-5, ISU 9-3. Away Record: BU 1-8, ISU 3-8. Neutral Record: BU 0-2, ISU 1-1. Conference Record: BU 6-7, ISU 6-7. Series Record: Bradley leads, 63-54.
GAME NOTES: The Bradley Braves will try to end their six-game losing streak at Redbird Arena when they square off with their Missouri Valley Conference rival Illinois State on Saturday.
The Redbirds came into the 2013-14 campaign having won eight of their last nine matchups versus Bradley including six straight in Normal. However, the Braves coasted to a 64-45 decision over Illinois State when these schools met on Jan. 29 at Carver Arena. Bradley's exceptional defensive performance in that tilt caused the Redbirds to commit 19 turnovers and finish only 4-of-22 from 3-point range. The victory improved the Braves' all-time series lead to nine games at 63-54.
Coach Geno Ford's Braves will be looking to bounce back from their 68-62 loss to Indiana State on Wednesday. Bradley is now four games below the .500 mark with five left to play. The team is currently in a four-way tie for fourth place in the MVC standings with Illinois State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois with all owning a 6-7 ledger in league play. The Braves' excellent play on the defensive end has helped them to the second best scoring defense (64.4 ppg) in MVC games, but they have posted only 62.8 ppg against their league rivals.
Illinois State is also hoping for a different result after falling, 104-98, to Evansville in overtime on Wednesday. Coach Dan Muller's team trailed the Purple Aces by 25 points in the second half before storming back to force an extra session. The loss was the second in a row for the Redbirds, but they now return home where they have gone 9-3 this season, including a 5-1 mark against MVC opponents. Illinois State is ranked second to last in the MVC in scoring defense, allowing its opposition to score 71.2 ppg, but its field goal percentage defense (.431) is the second best in the league.
Although Bradley has underwhelmed on the offensive end as a unit, Walt Lemon Jr. has continued to impress as a true scorer. The 6-foot-3 senior guard recorded his third consecutive outing with 20 points or more on Wednesday as he tallied 22 points and five steals. Lemon's efficiency was lacking versus Indiana State as he shot just 7-of-20 from the floor and committed seven of the Braves' 12 turnovers. Tyshon Pickett contributed a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds to go along with a career-best five assists, while backup center Jordan Prosser added 10 points. Lemon is ranked third in the MVC in scoring at 17.8 ppg and Pickett has also played a big role for Bradley with averages of 12 ppg and 7.2 rpg.
Unlike the Lemon-led Braves, Illinois State does not have a senior on its roster. The Redbirds clearly have some talent to work with as Daishon Knight, Bobby Hunter and Reggie Lynch have all had impressive campaigns. Still, the lack of experience has led to inconsistent play. Sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft tallied a career-high 18 points at Evansville on Wednesday, while Hunter provided 17 points, nine boards and six assists, while Zach Lofton scored 16 points. Knight added 15 points and Lynch chimed in with 12 points. The team's comeback effort came up short as Hunter, Lofton and Lynch were all disqualified with five personal fouls before the final buzzer. Lynch has already set an ISU freshman record with 60 blocks. Knight, who paces the team with 12.6 ppg, has collected three MVC Newcomer of the Week awards.
Illinois State has defeated Bradley in 20 of their previous 25 meetings at Redbird Arena. The Braves will need to put the clamps on ISU again defensively to complete the season series sweep. The Redbirds will end their brief two- game slide if they can find a way to operate efficiently for a full 40 minutes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 67, Bradley 63
02/15 10:19:44 ET