Senior night in Evansville proved to be too much to handle for the Braves as the Purple Aces snapped the men’s basketball team’s three-game winning streak on Wednesday night.
Evansville seniors Shy Ely, Jason Holsinger and Nate Garner took over the game, combining for 42 of the Purple Ace’s 56 points and never allowing the Braves to take the lead as Bradley fell 56-49.
Senior David Collins turned in a game-high 10 points on his way to leading Bradley in four statistical categories against the Purple Aces.
Collins turned in a double-double, pulling down 10 rebounds, dishing out four assists and sending back five shots.
The Braves fell behind early on in the first half and were forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Freshman Darian Norris capped off a 7-0 Bradley run with a long-ball midway through the first half, but Holsinger answered back with three of his own to push the Purple Ace’s lead to six.
The teams battled for the remainder of the half and Evansville took a 30-20 lead into the break.
One reason for Bradley’s inefficient offensive performance in the first period was the absence of its leading scorer, senior Theron Wilson.
Wilson was held scoreless in the first half and played just seven minutes in the period because of foul trouble.
The Braves came out shooting in the second half, as freshman Eddren McCain and sophomore Sam Maniscalco connected on 3-pointers.
Wilson scored his first points of the contest with about 15 minutes remaining, pulling the score to 36-30.
But he picked up his fourth foul less than a minute later and was sent back to the bench.
The Braves twice brought the game within two, but Bradley was not able to pull ahead and eventually lost the contest.
Junior guard and co-captain Dodie Dunson scored just two points in the game. It was clear the Bloomington native was not 100 percent after injuring his hand in the Loyola game last Saturday.
Although the Braves lost the game and fell to 9-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference, they have now clinched either a four or five seed for the MVC tournament due to Drake’s loss to Southern Illinois on Wednesday.
Wichita State and Evansville both sit at 7-8 in the conference.
If Bradley, Evansville and Wichita State finish the season in a three-way tie, or if just Bradley and the Shockers tie, the Braves would remain the No. 4 seed.
However, if just Evansville and Bradley tie, the Purple Aces would take over the four spot and Bradley would fall to the No. 5 seed.
Either way, the Braves will play in the 2:35 p.m. game next Saturday afternoon in the MVC tournament against either Wichita State or Evansville.
If Bradley met the Purple Aces next Friday, it would mark the third time in four weeks the Braves and Evansville squared off.
Bradley will close out its regular season on Saturday when Carver Arena hosts Senior Night against Drake.
The Braves will honor seniors Wilson, Collins, Sam Singh and Brian Lavin.