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Bradley Stuns Southern Illinois 70-69

The Bradley Braves continue to be the hottest team in the Missouri Valley conference, coming back from a 23-point deficit to beat the Southern Illinois Salukis in Carbondale.

The Braves started with a quick lead, getting two baskets from future Missouri Valley most improved player, Darius Hannah, which quickly evaporated as the defense of Southern Illinois didn’t allow the Braves to take an uncontested shot the whole half, along with the Salukis getting every shot to fall for them the Braves found themselves down 20-11 going into the media timeout. This stout defense from the Salukis showed as the Braves were only shooting 4/9 from the field and had a lot of ugly turnovers, due to poor ball movement.

The nine-point lead for the Salukis quickly turned into a 15-point lead as Bradley’s offense went cold, up until a Duke Deen three made the score 18-30.

Bad turned into worse and for five minutes the Braves couldn’t buy a shot to go down. Finding themselves down 41-20 with 2:42 left in the half when freshman Demarion Burch knocked down a fader to make the score 41-22.

Not much else happened in the half, as the Braves only scored one more basket, a ft by Almar Atlason before the half ended, with Bradley being Down 45-24, by far the biggest halftime deficit they’ve been at all year, which when you shoot 9/27 in the half, compared to 16/27 by the Salukis, you’re bound to be down by a lot.

The second half starts and the Braves look like a whole different team, slowly chipping away at Southern Illinois lead, starting the half with a Darius Hannah and one.

Into the first media timeout of the second half, the Braves were down 31-50 but were so far 5/5 from the line as Darius Hannah, Malevy Leons, and Almar Atlason all hit shots from the line. Out of the timeout, we got our first Kyle Thomas sighting, as Ahmet Jonavic was not having a good game, and coach Brian Wardle needed to mix things up with the second team. Let’s just say it paid off, as we got a Kaboom from KT.

This was followed up with a corner three from Malevy Leons and a filthy and one from Demarion Burch which brought the deficit to 13 with 12:55 left in the game. The Braves didn’t stop there as three more made free throws from Demarion Burch and two made jumpers from Connor Hickman brought the game within single digits and forced SIU to call a timeout with 11:15 left.

The Salukis brought their lead back to 12 with 8 minutes left and that’s when the momentum truly swung completely in the favor of the Braves, with one of the best sequences I’ve ever seen happen.

The game slowed down after this point, with the only basket being scored was a jumper by Salukis Xavier Johnson putting their lead back at 11. A few minutes of scoreless basketball later from both sides we got a made three from Malevy Leons that brought the game back to single digits, with SIU only being up eighth.

Bradley at this point in the game could not miss, while Southern Illinois was in a bad shooting woe, so with a made jumper by Connor Hickman and a clutch three by Duke Deen the score was 62-65 Salukis with 3:39 left in the game

After a missed shot from Xavier Johnson, and a clutch steal from Malevy Leons, the Salukis' defense fell apart and future Larry Bird winner Connor Hickman was left wide open in the corner

Bang. Tie Game.

After exchanging layups, we had a 67-67 score, and that’s when Hickmania called game, driving through the lane, getting the bucket and one, making the score 70-67. An untimely foul by Christian Davis sent Xavier Johnson to the line, making 2/2 shots to make the score 70-69 giving them a chance to win, but after a costly missed shot by Johnson, we had game, with the Braves on top, coming behind from a 23 point deficit to win while only having a 0.8% chance to pull it off.

The Braves shot nearly 70% in the second half, compared to 33% in the first half, while the Salukis shot 35% in the second half compared to 59% in the first half.

Connor Hickman, Duke Deen, and Darius Hannah each had 15 points apiece, with Malevy Leons having 10. Leons and Deen grabbed five boards each, with Hannah, Burch, and Davis snagging three each. Xavier Johnson had 18 for the Salukis, while AJ Ferguson had 15. Clarence Rupert led the team with seven rebounds. This was Bradley’s seventh straight win, giving them plenty of momentum coming home to the 309 to face another tough team in Belmont.

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