Bradley (9-14) at Loyola-Chicago (8-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 6, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joseph J. Gentile Center (4,486) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Bradley 9-4, Loyola 7-3. Away Record: Bradley 0-8, Loyola 0-10. Neutral Record: Bradley 0-2, Loyola 1-1. Conference Record: Bradley 4-6, Loyola 3-7. Series Record: Bradley leads, 30-17.
GAME NOTES: The Bradley Braves continue to search for their first true road win of the season as they visit the Joseph J. Gentile Center for a Missouri Valley Conference tilt with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.
The Braves' 74-61 loss at Missouri State over the weekend marked their 13th consecutive setback in away games dating back to the 2012-13 campaign. Due to a strong performance at home, coach Geno Ford's team is 9-14 overall including a 4-6 league record. Bradley is surrendering only 64.9 ppg in conference play, giving it the second best scoring defense in the MVC. However, the Braves have managed to post a mere 60.8 ppg against their league rivals, giving them the lowest scoring average in the 10-team conference.
Loyola fell, 81-76, in overtime at Southern Illinois on Saturday. The Ramblers were clinging to a two-point advantage as time winded down in regulation before a foul with only one second showing on the clock gave the Salukis a chance to force an extra session. Coach Porter Moser's squad has earned seven of its eight victories this season at home. While the Ramblers are 3-7 through their first 10 games as a member of the MVC, all three triumphs have occurred on their own court. Despite being seven games below .500 in the league standings, Loyola is being outscored by just 0.3 ppg in conference games.
The Braves hold a 30-17 edge in their all-time series with Loyola. The Ramblers have come out of the last two encounters between these programs on top, both in Peoria, including a 12-point victory over Bradley on Feb. 18, 2012 as part of BracketBuster weekend.
Considering the senior guard is the MVC's active career scoring leader, it is no surprise Walt Lemon Jr. is Bradley's go-to-guy on the offensive end. Lemon netted a team-high 13 points and also tied his career-best with eight assists in the loss at JQH Arena. Omari Grier contributed 12 points on 4-of-5 efficiency from 3-point range, while Tyshon Pickett scored 11 points and Ka'Darryl Bell had 10 points. Lemon, Jr. is the third-leading scorer in the conference at 17.1 ppg. Pickett is leading the conference in offensive rebounds (61) and posts 11.7 ppg. Grier has shown he is not shy from the perimeter, having connected on 45-of-132 tries from beyond the arc en route to a 10.7 ppg average.
Loyola will counter the Braves' senior leader with its standout rookie, Milton Doyle. The 6-foot-4 Kansas transfer has earned four MVC Newcomer of the Week awards already. Doyle, who is pouring in 18.2 ppg in league action, tallied 27 points in the overtime loss to SIU but also committed six of the team's 14 turnovers. Jeff White stepped up to add 16 points, five assists and three steals in 44 minutes of work while Christian Thomas was nearly perfect on the night, finishing 5-of-5 from the floor and 4-of-5 at the free-throw line for 15 points. Thomas enters Thursday tied for ninth in the MVC in scoring (13.9 ppg), fourth in rebounds (6.6) and third in field goal accuracy (56.3 percent).
Bradley will continue to struggle if it continues to rely so heavily on Lemon. It is due for a win away from home, but it will certainly not come easy in Chicago. Although the Braves have been solid on the defensive end, they will have trouble containing Loyola's one-two punch. Doyle has instantly become one of the conference's elite players and Thomas is a workhorse on a consistent basis.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Loyola-Chicago 65, Bradley 62
02/06 10:17:40 ET