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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 19, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carver Arena (11,168) -- Peoria, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: MSU 4-5, Bradley 8-2. Away Record: MSU 1-6, Bradley 3-3. Neutral Record: MSU 0-2, Bradley 0-2. Conference Record: MSU 3-3, Bradley 3-3. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 30-17.
GAME NOTES: The Bradley Braves wrap up a brief two-game homestand on Saturday afternoon, as they challenge the Missouri State Bears in a Missouri Valley Conference clash from Carver Arena.
Missouri State's season was off to a dreadful start, as it won just two of its first 12 games. The Bears have been playing better since the start of their MVC slate however, boasting a 3-3 mark in league play, but they are currently losers of back-to-back games, having lost to nationally-ranked Creighton on Jan. 11 (74-52), and Indiana State this past Wednesday (68-60).
At 11-7, Bradley has put together one of the nation's most impressive turnarounds, as it already has four more wins than it did during the entire 2011-12 campaign. The Braves are also 3-3 in conference, and they recently snapped a season-long, three-game losing streak by defeating Southern Illinois, 69-66.
Missouri State has won four straight against Bradley, improving its record in the all-time series to 30-17.
The Bears led Indiana State 31-27 at the half on Wednesday, but they lost control of the contest after intermission and were eventually handed the eight-point loss. They shot an impressive 49 percent from the floor, but they simply could not keep up with the scorching Sycamores, who drained better than 57 percent of their field goal attempts. Gavin Thurman was impressive in the setback with 18 points and six rebounds, while Anthony Downing added 12 points, seven boards and five assists. On the season, Missouri State is without question the MVC's worst offense, as it ranks last in the league in scoring (59.4 ppg), free throw percentage (.618), field goal percentage (.401) and 3-point field goal percentage (.298). Downing is the team's only double- digit scorer with 14.2 ppg, and he also contributes 4.1 rpg, 2.8 apg and more than a steal per contest. Marcus Marshall (9.7 ppg) and Christian Kirk (8.4 ppg) do what they can to help out the rather anemic scoring attack.
Bradley was able to hold off SIU for the three-point win despite getting outshot from the floor, 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent. The Braves' biggest advantage came at the foul line, where they drained 15-of-19 attempts, while the Salukis were just 8-of-14. Dyricus Simms-Edwards led the way with 18 points, and Tyshon Pickett added 15 points. Walt Lemon, Jr. filled the stat sheet with 16 points, eight assists and three steals, but he also committed seven turnovers. While Bradley puts up significantly more points than Missouri State (68.1 ppg), its scoring offense still ranks in the lower half of the league. However, it is aided by the fourth-ranked scoring defense (63.6 ppg) and the league's best turnover margin (+4.3). Lemon, Jr. (13.4 ppg) and Simms-Edwards (11.5 ppg) are much more than just scorers in the Braves' backcourt, as the two have combined to log 102 steals and dish out more than seven assists per outing. Pickett adds 11.2 ppg and a team-high 6.1 rpg to the fold.
Even though Missouri State has rebounded from a brutal start, it is still vulnerable away from home, winning just one of seven true road games. Another balanced effort should help the Braves give the hometown faithful something to smile about.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bradley 70, Missouri State 60
01/19 10:33:21 ET