Fireworks, fog, even more fog and Kaboom!
With a pregame introduction that will be remembered in Bradley history, the world was introduced to “Kaboom!”, Bradley University’s first mascot since 1996.
A game still had to be played though, and the Braves are fighting to not play on Thursday night’s Missouri Valley Conference play-in game, Mar. 6.
The Braves took on Loyola (Chicago) and were riding a three-game losing streak heading into Saturday night’s matchup against the Ramblers.
Although both teams only combined for 36 points in the first half and the Braves led 19-17, the first half itself was sloppy (16 total turnovers) and slow (14-51, 27 percent combined from the field).
Led by Junior Auston Barnes, the Braves went on a 7-0 run to begin the second half, all scored by Barnes.
Barnes said he was wasn’t getting the shot selection he wanted in the first half, and wanted to come out and be productive in the second half.
“Going in after halftime I was a bit frustrated,” Barnes said. “Coach said I had to get out there and be aggressive, so I was.”
Senior Walt Lemon Jr. who usually puts up double-digit points per half looked rusty to start the game as he went 1-10 (10 percent) and only had two points to start the game.
Coach Geno Ford said he was a bit surprised with how Lemon started, but knows he is an experienced player and would come back in the second half.
“That was as bad as I’ve seen him [Lemon] in a first half,” Ford said. “He came back in the second half and showed that he can bounce back.”
The Braves took control of the game by going on two separate 7-0 runs in the second half and at one point pushed the lead to 21 points with 7:02 remaining in the game. The Ramblers could not find an answer for Barnes and Lemon and the Braves would go on to win 55-38.
With a victory against Loyola, the Braves can now focus their attention to their biggest task of the season, the only unbeaten team in the country: Wichita St.
Coach Ford said that his team would be ready for the physical Shockers despite a short turnaround.
“It’s a great opportunity for us and we are thrilled that they are coming here,” Ford said. “But, the only thing we can control on Tuesday is our play.
The Braves return to action to face the Shockers at 8 p.m. on Tuesday Feb. 25 at the Civic Center and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.
Ford reminded the student body how much their presence will mean on Feb. 25.
“We need the students here,” Ford said. “It’s one of those deals that we need everyone going in the right direction if we want to pull something special off.”