The Bradley Braves hosted their first home conference game of the year, welcoming 6-1 Indiana State Sycamores into Carver Arena. This game was highly anticipated as the last time these teams met was in the semi-finals of last year's Arch Madness, where the Braves knocked off the Sycamores 71-70.
The game started balanced as the Braves were down 9-10 heading into the first media timeout. Duke Deecocontrolled the Braves' floor from the floor and an early slam from Darius Hannah.
The game stayed relatively close halfway through the first half, with Indiana State up 29-24. At this point, Duke Deen was up to 8 points, staying shifty with his mid-range shots, and future MVP Malevy Leons was up to 6 points.
The defense stepped up its game compared to what it did against Murray State, but by the time halftime rolled around, the Braves were down 49-30.
“But how are the Braves playing good defense but are down 19?”
The Sycamores could not miss from the three-point line, going 10-19 In the first half compared to the Braves 2-6. It didn’t matter who was guarding the line; the Sycamores could not miss, along with a scoring drought to close out the first half from the Braves.
The 2nd half rolled around, and the Braves stormed out to a 10-2 scoring run, forcing a timeout from Indiana State.
Hickman and Leons put the team on their back, each getting into double figures going into the media timeout with 11:36 left in the second half. The Braves were still down 47-63, but things were coming around for them.
The boys from the 309 proceed to go on a run, bringing the Sycamores' lead down to seven, with Hickman getting himself up to 17 points with under 9 to play in the second half.
Within the blink of an eye, everything changes.
With 5.03 left in the game, Sycamores player Ryan Cornwell goes up for an offensive rebound and layup and makes it but gets fouled by Malevy Leons. Within this sequence of events, Connor Hickman went up for the board and landed on his ankle awkwardly (it looks like it was stepped on from my point of view in the stands).
The play was called dead as Hickman was lying on the court in excruciating pain. Every fan in Carver went silent as the trainers came out to check on him and ended up taking him back to the locker room as he could put zero pressure on the ankle.
It was a major blow to the Braves as Hickman was our best player this game and our team's best pure shooter.
The Braves did their best to cut down the lead, getting it down to 7, but this point did the damage. Two missed three-pointers by Duke Deen and a questionable turnover with a minute left by Deen, who passed the ball to point guard Demarion Burch, who ran into Christian Davis as the ball was sailing toward him, making the ball go out of bounds and therefore was the dagger the Sycamores needed.
Indiana State: 85
Bradley was out-shot the whole game, going 29-65 from FT and 6-20 from the three-point line, compared to 31-59 from FT and 14-29 from the three-point line for the Sycamores.
Robbie Avila led the Sycamores in scoring with 22 points, followed by 18 from Isaiah Swope and 17 from Ryan Cornwell.
Connor Hickman led the Braves with 19 points, followed by 18 with Malevy Leons and 13 by Duke Deen.
Jayson Kent led the Sycamores with 11 boards compared to 9 from Leons.
The Braves now sit at a 6-2 record (0-2 in conference play) going into a nonconference game at Akron on December 5th.
(Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)