One free throw.
A single free throw was all that Bradley needed to snap a 35-game losing streak to teams west of the Mississippi River.
Instead, the Braves fell to the Missouri State Bears in triple overtime 80-77, in a game which featured Bradley holding leads in the first two overtime periods.
“We have an innate ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” head coach Geno Ford said. “We had two free throws to salt it away, [and] we missed both.”
Four days after the Braves were dismantled by Northern Iowa 56-39 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Ford and his team traveled to Springfield, Missouri for their second to last game of the year against Missouri State.
Bradley rallied from a nine point halftime deficit to tie the game with 2:25 left in regulation, when junior guard Tramique Sutherland sent the game into its first extra period with two of his career high 20 points to knot the contest at 50 a piece.
The first overtime featured the Braves holding a three-point lead with 3:30 left, but clutch shots by guards Christian Kirk and Austin Ruder sent the game into a second overtime.
In the second overtime, Bradley led by seven with 2:34 to play when they were victimized by the Bears’ Austin Ruder again.
Ruder hit two three-pointers within the final two minutes to finish with 20 points. One of those shots was a tied the game with six seconds left, sending it into the third and final overtime.
“We know Ruder’s going to shoot it,” Ford said. “He hasn’t had a hot hand recently, but we know what a great shooter he is.”
Ruder’s game-tying three came eight seconds after junior guard Ka’Darryl Bell missed both of his free throws, which would have won the game for the Braves.
“That is what teams that often lose do,” Ford said. “[We] find something, and we just shoot ourselves in the foot.”
In the third and final overtime frame, Missouri State pulled away from Bradley with four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the Bears’ senior night win.
“I thought Missouri State made a couple big shots,” Ford said. “It’s what seniors are supposed to do on senior day, give [them] a lot of credit.”
Ford said that triple overtime loss was one that featured the Braves knack for late game collapses.
“It was a great college basketball game between two teams that have had maybe not the year they wanted to have,” Ford said. “It’s just frustrating because we seem to do what we do far too often.”
The Braves return home for senior night and their final regular season game of the year on Feb. 28, against Indiana State.