Fouls, technicals and missed free throws marred an instant classic in an overtime thriller for Interstate 74 rivals Illinois State and Bradley.
Illinois State overcame a late charge from the Missouri Valley Conference’s leading scorer, senior Andrew Warren, to secure their second victory in a row, 79-78.
Warren scored 25 points to lead all scorers and ISU’s Jackie Carmichael had 24 points and 17 rebounds off the bench.
The rivalry’s intensity heated up quickly as the Braves roared off to a 23-8 lead in the first ten minutes.
“We could not have played the first ten minutes any poorer,” ISU coach Tim Jankovich said. “Even if we had scripted it worse and I give Bradley a lot of credit for that. They were really ready to play and jumped out on us.”
But foul trouble did the Braves in and let the Redbirds back into the contest before the end of the half.
“The start was really good,” Bradley coach Jim Les said. “Our foul trouble in the first half cost us some to allow them to get back in the game. It took away a little bit of our aggressiveness and enthusiasm.”
The Braves went into the half leading, 32-27
“To fight back to five at the half was more than I could have really hoped for at the 12 minute mark,” Jankovich said. “I thought we showed a lot of resilience by our guys because we had absolutely nothing going our way and we stayed in the game.”
At the start of the second half, Bradley once again had a good start and pulled away to an 11-point lead with nine minutes to go before foul trouble and turnovers did them in.
“We’ve got to just make free throws and step up and make stops,” Les said. “We let them score way too easy and if we step up and knock some free throws in, I think we close the game out.”
At the end of the game, ISU took the lead for the first time all game with 13 seconds left in regulation and held on dearly to a two-point lead with four seconds left.
As the Braves inbounded the ball for what seemed like the last play of the game, the clock malfunctioned and gave the Braves a pseudo timeout.
“I am certainly not blaming anyone, but that was a pretty big play,” Jankovich said. “We had pretty much exactly what we wanted in that situation and I don’t know if they would have even got a shot [off] and instead they get a sideline out-of-bounds play.”
The Braves got the ball to junior Will Egolf and he drew a foul and went to the line.
“Walking up to the line I was just praying and telling myself to take my time,” he said. “It’s about time I got an opportunity to get over the hump for us.”
After making both free throws, the game headed to overtime.
Overtime was a tale of two players, ISU’s Austin Hill and Warren, who entered the extra frame with two and 14 points, respectively.
Hill scored the Redbirds’ first four points and ten of 14 overall.
“I just didn’t want to lose,” he said. “I knew the flow of the game was just going right and I just felt like I should put my team on my back.”
But after almost every Hill basket, Warren answered.
“[I was thinking] this guy is on fire right now,” Carmichael said. “[I was thinking] I hope we don’t lose because of that shot. He came down and fired two deep threes. He’s a great shooter.”
With this win, ISU moves to 2-8 in the MVC and Bradley drops to 0-10. Bradley plays Saturday against Wichita State at 1 p.m. on ESPN2.