I-74 rivalry round 2: Braves struggle at free throw line again, fall to ISU

 

After taking round one of the I-74 rivalry against Illinois State on Jan. 29 in Peoria by a 64-45 margin, the Braves were looking for their second road when of the season and a win at Illinois State for the first time since 2007. But, the Braves came out with little energy to start the second half and the Redbirds shot lights out from the three-point line as they handled the Braves (11-16 overall and 6-8 in the MVC) 70-54 and now control the tiebreaker between the two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.

The Braves were coming off an 68-62 to second place Indiana State on Feb. 12, when Indiana State’s Jake Odum went off for 27 points and led the Sycamores in most statistical categories. On Saturday night, one player plagued the Braves again. This time it was Illinois State’s Daishon Knight who had a game-high 26 points and went 5-7 (71 percent) from the three-point line. As the game continued on, the Braves had no answer for Knight and the Redbirds as they controlled the Braves in second half. Bradley Coach Geno Ford knows that the Braves have to bounce back after suffering two losses in a row and said he is confident in his team to finish off the regular season with a bang.

“You always have to be resilient in our league,” Ford said. “We just need to worry about the game in front of us, but I thought tonight we just looked tired.”

The Braves overcame an 11-point deficit early in the first half to take the lead at 2-18 with 6:02 left in the first half. But as both teams were a combined 4-16 (25 percent) from the three-point line and 11-23 (48 percent) from the free throw line in the first, the Braves looked to stay with the Redbirds in the second half. But Knight and the Redbirds went on a 14-5 run early in the second half to break the game open and put Illinois State up by 12 with 10:35 left in the game, and ISU never looked back. Junior Auston Barnes, who played at the same junior college (Odessa College) as Knight knew the ISU guard had a performance like this in him and said it fun going against his old teammate.

“He [Knight] likes to put up a lot of shots and today he made them.” Barnes said. Barnes also had a solid game, going 4-6 (67 percent) from the three-point line and finished with 12 points and four rebounds. Barnes was pleased with his performance and he said knew his shot was falling, so he kept on shooting. “I only took one two-pointer today, Barnes said. “The first one went in and I had to be aggressive.”

The Braves now sit in sixth place in the MVC, tied with Southern Illinois, who the Braves play on Feb. 18th in Carbondale, Ill.

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