The last time Bradley’s men’s basketball team won a Missouri Valley Conference tournament game, people believed Tim Tebow would be a legitimate NFL quarterback.
Four years have passed since Bradley’s last victory in the Valley tournament in 2011, and all four of those years ended the same way: a loss in the play-in game on Thursday night.
Last night, Bradley snapped that streak by knocking off the Drake Bulldogs 52-50 in overtime.
Tied at 47 with little over a minute remaining, senior forward Auston Barnes hit a three-point shot to give Bradley the lead 50-47. Drake rallied to tie the game at 50 with 16 seconds left, but the Bulldogs fouled junior Tramique Sutherland. Sutherland hit both free-throws to provide the winning margin.
Barnes said head coach Geno Ford told him to be more aggressive, which is why he decided to take the long-distance shot.
“Coach Ford’s been preaching to me about being more aggressive and playing with some confidence,” Barnes said in a press conference. “I just toed the line, and I was open, so I put it up.”
Barnes’ 13 points led the team in scoring. He and junior Nate Wells were the only two Braves in double-digits. Wells chipped in 10 points and grabbed six rebounds to go along with four blocked shots, all of which tied his career-high marks in those categories.
The Braves, as a team, were able to hold Drake to a mere 23.1 percent (3-of-13) from behind the three-point line, well below the Bulldogs’ season average of 41.3 percent.
“We do a good job mixing it up and keeping our opponents on their toes,” Wells said. “I think the main thing that comes out of it is communication. When we do a good job on the back line, Auston, Josh and I, that allows them to not only get through screens and such but also on the help-side defense.”
Bradley ran a multitude of defenses during the game, but by the end of the contest the team reverted back to a simple one: man-to-man.
“To be honest, when we went up there, we showed some diamond and some triangle and some zone,” Ford said. “We were just trying to keep them out of rhythm.”
For the most part, Bradley’s defense did just that. The Bulldogs shot just 37.2 percent as a team, but Jacob Enevold was able to hit five of his eight shots along with a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line to tally 24 points.
“[Enevold] did a great job of getting to the line today,” Barnes said. “The man can shoot free throws;the man proved that. He’s so big and so good at using his body and getting angles, and it’s really hard to guard him in the post. Nate did a great job in the first half.”
The Braves move on to face the Northern Iowa Panthers later today. The game is expected to tip off at 6:05 p.m. Ford said the team is not ready to leave St. Louis just yet.
“I gave the guys Sunday and Monday off,” Ford said. “Monday night at 10 o’clock, they came in and played pickup. They came in and organized it. I wanted them off their legs, and they wanted to play. They’re not ready for it to be over.”
Barnes agreed with his coach and noted Bradley’s defense will have a challenge on its hands yet again.
“We’ve got one day to do it,” Barnes said. “They’re a great team, they’ve got the conference player of the year and a whole bunch of guys who can shoot. We’re just going to come out here and play our hearts out.”