Braves blow golden opportunity

The Bradley men’s basketball team let a valuable road win slip through their fingers Wednesday night on the road against Drake. 

The Braves suffered one of its most disappointing losses of the season falling short to the Bulldogs 92-84 in overtime.

The team led Drake for most of the contest and were up five points with 28 seconds left after a 3-pointer from senior Will Egolf.

Drake converted a 3-point play on the next possession then junior Tyshon Pickett missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Bulldogs a chance to tie.

Seth VanDeest rebounded a missed shot and was fouled, converting two free throws to take the game to overtime.

Drake then dominated the Braves in the overtime to steal a victory at home.

Frankly, losses like Wednesday night are unacceptable. Good teams don’t blow five point leads with less than 30 seconds remaining.

I’m sure the players are angry. I’m sure Geno Ford and the rest of the coaching staff is angry. And they should be.

The Braves blew a valuable opportunity to snag a road win against a Missouri Valley Conference bottom feeder. Last night may be the difference between playing on Thursday night in St. Louis during the MVC tournament and getting a bye to Friday.

The bottom four teams in the conference play Thursday night. Right now, the Braves are tied with Illinois State for sixth place in the MVC.

With just two conference games left and one of those coming against Creighton, it appears Bradley may have blown its shot to stay out of the play-in round.

It’s disappointing. It would have been one thing had the Braves been out played and deserved to lose. That happens sometimes when you go on the road.

But that wasn’t the case. That was a game BU had in the bag. They deserved to win, but didn’t execute down the stretch and essentially handed the game to Drake.

It was the kind of thing that would have happened last season. For most of this year, Bradley has avoided those kind of lapses. Not Wednesday night.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Braves. This year has been a major success. The team has more than doubled its win total from last season and looks and plays more confident. BU has exceeded all realistic expectations coming into the season.

Ford has done a great job turning around this program and there is little doubt that the ship is heading in the right direction.

But nights like Wednesday cannot and should not happen in the future. This should be a lesson learned. You can’t give away games you have won if you want to be a contender at the top of the MVC.

It can even be a lesson going forward this season. The Braves maybe in sixth place in the conference, but outside of maybe Wichita State and Creighton Bradley can beat any conference team on a neutral court. They have a chance to make a run in the MVC tournament with a little bit of luck and much, much better execution.

It’s not the end of the world. BU can erase all the disappointment of the Drake debacle with wins in their final two MVC games. But if the Braves do end up playing Thursday night in St. Louis, you won’t be able to help looking back and wondering what if.

 

Alex Ross is a senior sports communication major from Fishers, Ind. He is the Scout sports editor.

Direct comments, questions and other responses to agross@mail.bradley.edu.