A quick start and sustained excellence at the free throw line was all the Braves needed to separate themselves from the Southern Illinois Salukis on Saturday, 76-60.
The Salukis entered the game looking for their first MVC victory in 13 tries but fell short.
After beginning the game with a 9-8 lead, the Braves went on a 15-0 tear and never looked back.
A jumper from the paint by freshman Kelsey Budd started the run. By the time the Salukis scored again, the Braves were already up 23-9 and were able to keep the lead above 10 for the rest of the game.
Budd’s 10 points were a part of a trio of Bradley guards who led the Braves in scoring. Senior guard Raisa Taylor scored a game-high 17 points and had nine rebounds while sophomore backcourt partner Katie Yohn scored 13 with eight rebounds.
With her 17 points, Taylor moved up to 11th on Bradley women’s all-time scoring record.
“We’ve got some shooters and when they’re in there and when they’re open, they’re going to go ahead and let it fly,” coach Paula Buscher said.
The Braves’ shots were falling at a consistent pace in the first half, a markedly different outcome then the offensive struggles the Braves had earlier in the month.
The Braves shot an impressive 51 percent from the field in the first half behind the shooting of Budd and junior MacKenzie Westcott.
Bradley’s transition offense flowed just as well, scoring 17 points off of 13 first-half turnovers.
In the second half, the Braves reverted back to their poor shooting ways and only made four field goals in the half while shooting a dismal 21 percent.
The Salukis bailed out the Braves by continuing to turn the ball over and fouled the Braves 24 times, which let Bradley shoot countless free throws.
“Free throws are huge. You knock down those free throws, it changes possessions,” Buscher said. “You don’t knock down those free throws, to me, it’s just like a turnover on the offensive end.”
Taylor carried a bulk of the weight at the free-throw line, sinking an impressive 13 of 17.
From the charity stripe, Taylor was able to ice their second road win in a row.
The Braves will end their season with three straight home games.
The first-place Northern Iowa Panthers kick off the string of top rated Valley teams to visit the arena tonight at 5:35 p.m.