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Depth leads Bradley into semifinals at MVC Tournament

ST CHARLES – The women’s basketball team rolled to a 70-49 victory over Indiana State at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Friday afternoon in St. Charles, Mo.

 The win was only the third in program history at the tournament, giving the Braves a chance to advance out of the semifinal round for the first time.

Those odds were increased significantly after Friday’s first game produced one of the biggest Valley upsets of the season, as No. 9 seed Evansville knocked off top-seeded Illinois State by a score of 73-60.

“We aren’t guaranteed anything but a game tomorrow,” Bradley coach Paula Buscher said. “We just have to keep playing, regardless of who the opponent will be, because they are all quality opponents.”

Bradley (21-9) was led by senior Monica Rogers, who put up 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, on the way to topping the 1,000 career point plateau.

The Braves also enjoyed three more double-digit performances on the afternoon, with freshman Michelle Lund and sophomore Raisa Taylor each putting up 11 points and junior Renee Frericks adding 10 off the bench.

“Every time they started to make a run on us, I felt like we stepped up and stopped it and gained some momentum,” Buscher said. “I think a big part of that was our ability to rebound the basketball.”

Bradley dominated the battle of the boards, finishing with a 46-28 advantage over the Sycamores. Rogers and junior Jenny Van Kirk each had six to lead the way for the Braves, but the rest of the team got involved in the effort as well, with 11 players finishing with two or more rebounds.

BU sophomore Sonya Harris finished with five boards, but was limited to only 13 minutes because of foul trouble. Van Kirk clocked in 22 minutes off the bench with Harris’ time limited, but overall, Bradley had 10 players with 13 or more minutes.

“We feel like one of our biggest strengths is our depth,” Buscher said. “We have to make sure we use that depth as a positive, though, and the way you use it as a positive is to come out and defend the heck out of your opponent to hopefully wear them down.”

Freshman Brittany Schoen led the way for the Sycamores (14-16) with 15 points, all of which came from her five 3-pointers.

Indiana State only shot 28.3% from the field (15-53) in the game and was unable to take advantage of Harris’ foul trouble, as they were outscored 34-8 in the paint.

“We didn’t really have an inside game today, and I know that hurt us,” Indiana State coach Jim Wiedie said. “But one of the biggest problems is that when you can’t score, it just drains you mentally. That, in turn, affects your defense, and you can’t just continue to defend hard on every possession without getting anything positive on the offensive end.”

Bradley will take on Evansville todayat 5 p.m. for a chance to take on the winner of No. 2 seed Creighton and No. 3 seed Drake in Sunday’s championship contest.