Although both 48 combined fouls in the game, the Bradley men’s basketball team fell victim to 18 turnovers as they lost to I-74 rival Illinois State 75-60 Sunday on Doug Collins Court in Normal, Illinois.
The Braves found themselves in foul trouble early on in both halves, including a stretch of eight seconds in the second half where Bradley sophomore forward Donte Thomas was whistled for three fouls, including a technical foul.
However, its was bad the decisions and turnovers that downed the Braves, to which head coach Brian Wardle attributed to the team’s youth.
“Its a lot … as a freshman to be out there with four other freshman when they’re going through a rough spot,” Wardle said. “We had a segment where we just had five turnovers in six possessions, that just killed us.”
Bradley were hurt by 13 turnovers in the first half, but the nine first half fouls took their toll. Thomas, along with freshmen Callum Barker and Luuk van Bree, would eventually foul out.
Even with the foul trouble which burdened the Braves, Wardle said the team played with better defense and more heart in the second half.
“I think [we had] a better defensive effort in the second half,” Wardle said. “I thought we came out with more of a chip on our shoulder, more of a toughness. They imposed their physical will on us in the first half. We were worried about, we talked about it, they had some strong inside guys. We made mistakes defensively but they had a game plan and give those players credit.”
The defensive improvement was met with an offensive surge which took the form of a 14-4 run, which cut the Redbird’s 39-26 halftime lead to one with 14:32 left in the game, to which Illinois State responded.
“We came out, we came fighting, we cut it to one, and then they responded with a run,” Wardle said. “Overall, we came out and showed the heart we can have, we just got to have it for 40 minutes.”
Illinois State followed Bradley’s run with a 17-7 run, and, combined with the foul trouble, put the Braves in a hole they were never able to recover from.
“When Luuk and [Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye] are in foul trouble, we struggle with that,” Wardle said. “Luuk’s our playmaker as a forward and [Lautier-Ogunleye] play makes a lot for us with the ball in his hands.”
Freshman Ronnie Suggs led all Braves with 16 points, and van Bree scored 14 before fouling out. Thomas had six points and 10 boards in 24 minutes.
According to Suggs, during halftime Wardle told him to play tougher and smarter offensively, to which Suggs responded with an 11 point second half.
“I tried to get the ball out of my hands quicker when I came off some screens to make some open plays for our guys,” Suggs said. “I thought we communicated very well to start the second half, which kind of helped us make shots.”
However, when the Braves needed a big bucket against the Redbirds, they were unable to find the bottom of the net.
“They made them, we didn’t,” Wardle said. “I thought Mcloud made some big threes in big moments, and I thought we had some looks that we missed in that span.”
The Braves remain on the road, and play at Southern Illinois Carbondale at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.