Twenty-one minutes to the tip-off of what could be a gut-check game for the Braves, who are hosting the Catamounts of Western Carolina. WCU enters the contest with a record of 7-1 after knocking off Furman (64-57) on Saturday. They also defeated a solid Wofford team last week, 72-67.
The Catamounts utilize a 10-man rotation, which makes it necessary for the Braves to control the tempo if they don’t want to be run out of the gym.
The Braves are coming off a half in which they shot 68 percent from the field (at NIU), but the first half of Wednesday’s game in DeKalb may have been cause for concern, as the Braves only put up 19 points. However, I feel like tonight could be the offensive breakout for senior Chris Roberts, who has been as steady as possible to date (11.1 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game). Also, with the high-tempo attack the Catamounts will look to lock Bradley into, we could see a good deal of time from benchers Dyricus Simms-Edwards and Milos Knezevic, whose height will be needed to compete with a number of 6-6, 6-7 and 6-8ers that WCU has to throw at Bradley.
D.J.’s Prediction – Bradley 71, WCU 68 (D.J’s record – 1-0)
– Alex’s Assessment: Former Scout sports editor, Alex Mayster, has less faith in the boys tonight than I. His prediction is as follows:
“I see Bradley coming out a little over-confidnet because of their recent success. This could lead them to take some forced, unnecessary shots early, allowing them to fall behind to a distance they can’t make up.
“WCU 77, Bradley 65” (Alex’s record – 1-0)
It’s time for the Star Spangled Banner, and then we’ll be off.
It seems like Coach Les has locked found the starting lineup that he likes, after using four different rotations in the first four games. To start out for the Braves, it will be sophomores Taylor Brown, Will Egolf, juniors Sam Maniscalco, and Andrew Warren and senior Chris Roberts.
Taking the tip for the Catamounts will be 6-6 Brandon Giles, 6-6 Kendall Russell, 6-2 Brigham Waginger, 6-4 Harouna Mutombo and 6-9 Richie Gordon. Mutombo seems too small to do much finger-wagging blocking, but I guess we’ll see.
Mutombo takes the jump ball in for a quick WCU layup, but TB adds a jumper to answer on Bradley’s first possession.
Gordon with an alley-oop from Waginger…Huge offensive board by Chris Roberts, which leads to a contortionist-like, twisting slam by Egolf.
AW hits a turnaround jumper from the free throw line, but WCU answers with another bucket in the paint – where all of their points have come from. At the first media timeout, it’s WCU 8, Bradley 7.
Anthony Thompson enters the game for BU. 6-8 Jake Robinson hits a 3-pointer for the Catamounts out of the timeout, followed by a layup from Gordon.
Warren and Brown add a pair of layups for the Braves, as DSE comes off the bench alongside sophomore Eddren McCain. After a limited-minute, four-turnover game at DeKalb, it will be interesting to see how McCain bounces back tonight.
DSE could be on the way to those big minutes I predicted, grabbing a Thompson steal and converting a 3-point play. On the ensuing WCU possession, Dyricus got a steal of his own and was fouled, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
On a related note, with 12:00 to play in the first half, WCU has committed 8 fouls, compared to Bradley’s 1.
At the 11:34 timeout, it’s Bradley 15, Catamounts 13. Warren’s quick six points leads the Braves.
Waginger hits a 3-pointer after stripping Egolf in the post to give the lead back to WCU, but a pair of Warren free throws makes it 17-16 BU.
TB with a nice take results in a Bradley bucket and Mutombo hits Waginger with a great look under the basket on the WCU end.
Some early foul trouble for Roberts, who can’t draw a charge call and picks up his second offense. Foul trouble is a pain the Catamounts are familiar with, as they are pegged for their 10th team foul, leaving BU in the double bonus for the final 8:37 of the half. It doesn’t hurt them, however, as Egolf misses both freebies.
Not a great start for Egolf, who has been pestered by the Catamounts’ quick hands. Although he has only been pegged for one turnover, he seems to be the only one involved of a game of “Hot Potato” out there.
A 3-pointer and a rebound by DSE lead to a TB jumper and a 24-17 Bradley lead. After a pair of WCU free throws, Maniscalco hits Brown in the lane, who is fouled but converts the basket, thanks to about 14 in-air adjustments.
Gordon drops a putback on the Western Carolina end to make it 26-22 with just over 6:00 to play in the first frame.
The smile on Taylor Brown’s face tells the story right now. TB is a perfect 6-for-6 from the field after hitting a top-of-the-key 3-pointer. He’s got 13 points to lead all scorers, while Warren knocks down a pair of free throws to add 12 to the mix.
Waginger has nine to lead the Catamounts, who trail 33-27 after a 3-pointer by Mutombo (No finger wag).
Giles gets on the WCU scoring chart with an And-1 runner in the lane. After sinking the free throw, it’s BU 33, WCU 30 with 3:00 to play in the first.
Waginger knocks down a 3 from the top of the key to give WCU a 35-34 lead, but Maniscalco answers back with one of his own on BU’s ensuing possession. Taylor Brown slaps away a steal, but Warren is unable to turn the outlet pass into a layup…Brown jumps a WCU pass on the next possesision, looking for another steal, but misses, allowing Robinson to hit an uncontested 3-pointer.
As a result, the Catamounts take a 38-37 lead into the break.
OK. After a good-sized bowl of chips and french onion dip, I’m ready for the second half. It’s BU ball to start and Chris Roberts draws a shooting foul ten seconds into the half. Roberts splits a pair of free throws and Giles hits a slashing layup to seat the Carver Arena faithful.
TB remains perfect from the field, hitting his second 3-pointer of the night and Warren hits yet another turnaround jumper. If I were Coach Les, I’d say make sure AW doesn’t get the ball unless he is heavily guarded.
Roberts grabs a Maniscalco miss, outlets to Warren, who gives it right back to Chris for a 3-pointer. It’s BU 46, WCU 42 with 17:14 to play.
One of the WCU assistants just voiced his opinion of tonight’s officiating after his team was called for its second foul of the half. As the team began to huddle for the 15:44 timeout, he looked at me and said, “It’s eight on five tonight,” insinuating that three of BU’s players are wearing black and white stripes…
Nice post move by WCU’s Adrian Gailliard to score over Egolf, but Will answers with a layup of his own on the other end. 48-46 BU.
A WCU shot-clock violation leads to a pair of McCain free throws…McCain appears to finally being having fun out there after his early-season struggles. After hitting Thompson with a flashy pass under the bucket (Thompson was fouled and hit 1/2 free throws), McCain hit “Sticks” again on the next Bradley possession, allowing the tall, thin sophomore to hit a floater in the lane.
On the next BU run up the floor, DSE drove strong and drew a foul. This series of events even caused the Caver crowd to rise from its seats – even though there was no promotions going on…
Thompson with a nice ORB/putback to put BU up 10 (56-46), but Keaton Cole hits a 3-pointer on the next Catamount possession.
Timeout WCU with 9:49 to play.
A give-and-go from DSE to Brown is followed by a Waginger jumper and another Robinson 3-pointer. Reminiscent of the Buffalo Wild Wings Challenge from the first half, Thompson badly clanks a pair of free throws, which is followed by a jumper by Mutombo.
At the 7:33 timeout, WCU has worked its way back to a two-point deficit, 58-56. Although Bradley just lost the ball on a Warren turnover, there probably couldn’t be a much better time for a media timeout…
Cole hits a 3 from the corner to give a 59-58 lead to the Catamounts and Brown turns it back over with a player-control foul on the Bradley end. Not sure whose blood is on TB’s back after that play, but it’s enough to stop play.
Robinson drops another top-of-the-key trey and Mutombo banks in another bucket for WCU. Quickly, it’s Catamounts 64, Braves 58.
After that last 3, you could see Robinson and Brown doing some jawing. It would be nice to see TB take control down the stretch here.
Roberts hits a pair of free throws, which are quickly erased by a Robinson drive. Bradley fails to convert a lob on the ensuing possession and Cole hits a jumper/draws the foul/hits the free throw to put WCU up nine 69-62 with 4 minutes to play.
Maniscalco stops the Bradley bleeding with a contested jumper before a Bradley timeout at 3:57.
Big ORB by Russell after a Waginger miss. Warren tips a WCU pass out of bounds with 2:59 to play and 19 seconds on the Catamounts’ shot clock.
Another ORB for WCU, this time by Mutombo. The Catamounts are able to burn another 23 seconds off the clock, which now sits at 2:25 (20 on the shot clock).
TB ties up Russell for a jump ball, possession BU.
Mr. Big Shot, Sam Maniscalco drops a quick-release 3-pointer from the top of the key to bring BU back within four (69-65). Foul called on TB with 1:52 to play, followed by a Warren reach.
Waginger’s inbound pass is wide of Cole, who can’t find the handle, turning it back over to the Braves. Waginger picks up his fourth foul on the ensuing Bradley possession and sends Sammy back to the line, where he splits his free throws.
Robinson misses a 3 for WCU and Warren does the same for BU. Here come the Catamounts in transition and Mutombo is fouled by TB (third). He will go to the line for a 1-and-1.
Mutombo drops both to make it a two-possession game and Maniscalco misses a 3-pointer. Back to the line is WCU, this time it’s Robinson who hits both to make it 73-66 with 41 seconds remaining.
DSE takes the inbound and goes coast-to-coast to draw a foul. He splits a pair of free throws to bring it to 73-67.
The crowd at Carver is starting to head for the exits.
And after another pair of Robinson freebies, your final is 75-67.