The Bradley men’s basketball team was manhandled in every aspect of the game by No. 21 Wichita State, resulting in a 82-56 route in the second round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis Friday night.
Bradley was able to hang in for the first 12 minutes, forcing the Shockers into turnovers by playing active defense, but were eventually out-matched.
“I thought we were doing really good things, and we just kind of hit a lull offensively,” Wardle said. “When you play a good defensive team and you’ve got those opportunities, you’ve got to seize the moment, and we weren’t able to do it.”
The deep and experienced Shockers remained determined and their shots began to fall as a pair of threes from Wichita State’s Marcus McDuffie and Connor Frankamp spurred an 8-0 run they never looked back from.
“Well, I thought we played very well from about the first media time-out on,” Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said. “We had a little [bit of] jitters at that point early on but after that we shared the basketball.”
Bradley didn’t do themselves any favors as they shot a dismal 26.9 percent from the field in the first half, including 0-9 from behind the three-point line, which led to a 42-16 halftime deficit.
Wardle said he challenged his team to show some fight in the second half. Much of that fight was on display by sophomore guard Antoine Pittman, who had a down scoring year for the Braves, but scored all of his 13 points in the second half.
I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Pittman said. “Attack the gaps; that was the game plan and that’s what I did.”
The Braves were out-rebounded 51-37 and got in foul trouble, allowing Wichita State to get to the line 45 times. In the end, the Braves couldn’t keep up with the Shockers on either end of the floor.
Though the season ended on a tough loss, Wardle said there is hope on the horizon for his young and still-improving team.
“I’m excited about the strides we made,” Wardle said. “Obviously people know we’re inexperienced and young, but I loved how we finished. [I’m] proud of my team this year. They made big strides for the program.”
Looking back on his first season, freshman point guard Darrell Brown said he has learned a lot and knows where the team needs to improve.
“There was a lot of ups and downs, but we learned a lot of things throughout the season,” Brown said. “We’re still young, but next year we’ll be better and ready to play.”
The Braves certainly showed major improvements this season. They more than doubled their win total from a year ago from five wins to 13. The men also won a conference tournament game against Drake and experienced playing the best the conference has to offer in the postseason.
“There’s a maturity and belief,” Wardle said. “They kind of figured out how to win down the stretch. Our leadership got better. I think they went into games expecting to win, and that’s part of the process is we needed to learn how to win this year. Now, next year you’ve got to sustain it, and it’s got to be from the start.”