Greetings! Welcome to the digital version of Redbird Arena’s first sell out of the year.
We are 30 minutes from the tip-off of the 109th installment of Bradley’s greatest sports rivalry, as the Braves (10-10, 5-5) are set to take on the Redbirds of Illinois State (14-7, 5-5). The Braves have won 10 of the last 14 meetings in the series and hold a 61-47 advantage overall.
“The Bird Cage” will be filled to capacity today as these two teams battle to break out of the fourth-place conference logjam they are sitting in now. Needless to say, the “Buck Fradley” shirts are quickly filling the 10,000+ seat stadium.
Today’s matchup will feature two of the Valley’s top three scorers in the Valley in Bradley’s Andrew Warren (third – 14.8 ppg) and Illinois State’s Osiris Eldridge (First – 16.9 ppg). Eldridge — who is no longer has an ‘O’ shaved in the side of his head or a mowhawk — is still easily the most explosive player in the Valley.
Also going on today is the annual “Coaches for Cancer” event, which donates a portion of the proceeds for each game played to cancer research. To help signify the event, each coach will don a pair of white sneakers with their suits. I wonder if Jim Les is more of a Carmelo or LeBron type guy when it comes to buying sneakers. I guess we’ll find out soon.
Illinois State is coming off a pair of road losses, falling in overtime to Southern Illinois at Carbondale (81-80) on Jan. 23 and Wichita State (74-66) three days ago.
The Braves are coming off a headache of their own, trying to respond to a 73-68 home loss to Creighton on Wedneday.
This is my first trip to Redbird Arena and so far it’s living up to its reputation. My seat is right in front of the student section, so I will try to keep you posted on some of the best (printable) comments that ISU fans have become so famous for. My pre-game favorite has to be a kid with a decorated box paying tribute to 3-point shooter Alex Rubin (see below).
Starting for the Braves (nothing new) will be Taylor Brown, Will Egolf, Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Chris Roberts. Taking the tip for the host ‘Birds will be Eldridge, Rubin, Lloyd Phillips, Dinma Odiakosa and Jackie Carmichael.
Redbirds win the tip and we’re off…
Eldridge drives baseline and gives to Odiakosa for two to start. Taylor Brown answers with a 15-footer on the other end. After n ISU travel, TB air-balls. Gotta believe he’s going to hear about that.
Eldridge drops a 3 and Brown is fouled on the floor for Bradley. Warren misses a 20-footer from the wing, rebound ISU. Eldridge air-balls a 3 of his own and Roberts knocks one down to tie things at 5. Warren picks an ISU pass off and goes coast to coast for a two-hand slam, reminding people that there is a Bradley fan section high in the rafters.
Odiakosa with a nice post move to tie it at seven and Sam Singh draws a shooting foul on the other end, signaling the first media timeout.
Just a sidenote – these ISU fans really did their homework. In a chant referencing this YouTube video they are giving shouts of “Knuckles” everytime Maniscalco touches the ball. They even have a “KNUCKLES” sign featuring an elementary school photo of Sammy. Well played, boys.
Singh hits both freethrows to put Bradley up two. Eldridge answers with a slash to the basket and Dyricus Simms-Edwards is whistled for a carry on the Bradley end.
Odiakosa for two from Eldridge and Bradley throws it away on the ensuing possession. Eldridge drops another 3 to put ISU up 14-9 and Bradley misses another on the other end. Les doesn’t like what he sees and takes a 30. That makes eight for Osiris.
DSE drives to the bucket and draws a foul off an ISU miss. He splits his free throws and Eldridge misses a 3 for the ‘Birds.
At the 11:45 timeout, it’s ISU 14, BU 10.
“Knuckles” with a steal and a coast-to-coast layup for two… Checking in for the Braves is Eddren McCain, who has been absent for the last two Bradley contests, nursing a right hand injury.
Maniscalco misses a 3 for Bradley and Tony Lewis hits a turnaround for ISU to answer. TB draws Osiris’ first foul and splits a pair of free throws to make it 16-13 ISU. After an Eldridge miss, McCain over throws a lob to Brown and Odiakosa draws a foul on Eddren on the other end. Dinma sinks 1/2 and DSE and Lloyd Phillips replace Brown and Eldridge, respectively.
After a pair of Bradley misses, Phillips drives and scores two for ISU. Warren answers with a 3 to improve Bradley’s shooting to 38 percent (5-13). Odiakosa gets to nine points with a big two-handed dunk and it’s 21-16 ISU with 6:15 to play.
Bradley has seven turnovers already in the early going after totaling a season-low eight last time out.
ISU throws it away out of the media timeout and TB takes advantage with a turnaround jumper for BU. Eldridge misses on a well-defended possession and Taylor again makes the ‘Birds pay, hitting a 3 to tie the game at 21.
After a Redbird ORB, Osiris hits a 10-footer to break that tie. Maniscalco misses a 3 and Odiakosa jump starts the Arena with a two-handed putback on a Rubin miss.
Bradley turns it over and Kellen Thornton makes it a 6-0 run with another ISU layup. Timeout Braves.
Maniscalco hits a 3 out of the timeout to quiet the crowd a bit, but Austin Hill answers right back with 3 of his own.
The Birds have already taken 12 more shots than BU and lead the offensive rebounding battle, 7-1. Osiris misses a baseline jumper, but Thornton out-jumps DSE for an offensive board, leading to a Phillips 3. Maniscalco answers with a jumper on the other end, but Carmichael gets in the paint for two more Redbird points. Dyricus can’t connect on a buzzer-beating 3 and at halftime, it’s ISU 35, Bradley 26.
The Braves will head to the locker room with nine turnovers and a 42.6 field goal percentage. The telling statistic, however, is the points in the paint, which ISU leads, 22-4. The ‘Birds have been able to score at will under the basket and also lead the 2nd chance points by a staggering 12-0 margin.
I’m not Jay Bilas, but I would say one offensive rebound is going to to cut it for Bradley in the second half…
DSE misses a jumper to start the second half. Bradley has Dyricus in the game to start the second half, keeping Chris Roberts on the bench. Odiakosa hits a layup to extend the Redbird lead. He now has 13 points to lead all scorers.
Make that 15, as Dinma works Egolf with another nice post move.
Warren draws a foul on Osiris and splits a pair of free throws. It’s ISU by 12, 39-27. Egolf is replaced by Singh after picking up his third foul.
Lloyd Phillips pours in another 3 and Singh throws it away on the other end. It’s now officially ugly. With 16:30 to play, it’s ISU 43, Bradley 27.
A pair of Bradley misses means the Braves are still without a 2nd chance point.
Here’s some symbolism for you. If things weren’t going well enough for the Redbirds already, ISU student Brian Smith just dropped a half-courter during the media timeout to earn everyone in attendance six free wings.
Odiakosa splits a pair of free throws and it’s Redbirds by 17.
Another Bradley miss, this time by Warren and the field goal percentage is down to an even 30.
Maniscalco hits a jumper at 13:30, Bradley’s FIRST field goal of the half. Egolf checks back in and instantly picks up his fourth foul, as Carmichael goes up and under for an And-1. He misses the free throw, but what else is new? It’s an ISU putback. That makes the 2nd chance battle 17-0.
Media timeout – 11:28 to play; ISU 48, BU 29. In case you aren’t a math person — that’s three points in 8 minutes, 32 seconds. Bradley is now shooting 28.6 percent (10-35), hitting 1-of-14 this half.
Carmichael misses a bunny for the Redbirds and Egolf draws a foul and sinks both free throws. An ISU miss gives it back to the Braves and Singh gets to the line with a ball fake. He hits them both to move to 4-for-4 on the night. There’s a positive.
ISU turns it over by the Braves are unable to convert as Warren misses a 3. Phillips comes up empty again, but so does TB. The Redbirds turn it over to Dyricus who takes it coast-to-coast for the layup, making it 48-35.
ISU coach Tim Jankovich takes a timeout. For a team that is shooting sub-30 percent, a 13-point deficit actually has to look pretty good. However, the ailing ISU offense may have just been resuscitated by the fans’ greatest weapon — the wave.
Rubin misses a 3, but Dinma is there to keep it alive for the ‘Birds. Osiris draws a blank from 3, but Warren is whistled for a loose-ball foul.
Stats update: ISU leads the points in the paint battle, 30-6 and 2nd chance points 17-0. Odiakosa has 17 to lead all scorers and Maniscalco leads the Braves with nine.
Dinma sinks a pair of free throws out of the 7:45 timeout and Warren does the same on the other end. Odiakosa with another layup, but Warren hits a 3 to answer. That gives him 11 on the night and Jim Les takes the signature “after-3 timeout.”
Phillips hits an ISU 3 and it’s a 15-point game. Osiris hits a wide-open 3 and it’s an 18-point game. Odiakosa hits a pair of freebies and it’s a 20-point game.
Another miss by Warren and an offensive foul on ISU signals the 3:49 media timeout. Jake Eastman into the game for Bradley and he draws a quick foul, splitting the free throws. With 3 minutes to play, it’s ISU 60, Bradley 43
Odiakosa with another massive two-handed slam and DSE draws a foul on the BU end. He sinks both free throws and ISU will stall out the rest of the game. Odiakosa heads to the bench, finishing with 25 points.
I don’t imagine it’s going to be an uplifting press conference.
Final: Illinois State 66, Bradley 47