After making the game winner in yesterday’s Bradley victory over Toledo, junior guard Terry Nolan missed a potential game-tying free throw with .4 seconds remaining on Thursday afternoon, and the Braves fell to Xavier 51-50 at the Cintas Center.
It was one of four missed free throws that sunk the Braves, who went 2-6 at the charity stripe.
Despite the miss, the ball was where Bradley wanted it to be – in Nolan’s hands.
“We wanted to go to the hot hand,” senior forward Elijah Childs said. “Terry’s our closer for us, as funny as that is to say, he’s our closer. We trust him.”
Just seconds prior to the missed free throw, the 6-foot, 4-inch Nolan connected on a contested corner three to give the Braves a 50-49 lead with 12 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, Xavier guard Dwon Odom drove downcourt and made a layup through traffic. The shot, which sat on the front of the rim before falling through the hoop, turned out to be the game winner for the Musketeers.
Despite the big shots late, the game was dictated by defense. After the Musketeers scored 101 points in their season opening victory over Oakland on Wednesday, Bradley and Xavier only managed a combined 101.
The Braves mustered a shooting percentage of just 33 percent but kept Xavier right there with them at 34 percent.
“That’s our identity,” Childs said. “The shots aren’t always going to fall but our defense has to stay the same.”
After finding himself on the bench with two fouls to finish the first half, Bradley’s game plan revolved around Childs in the second half. The senior picked up 11 of his 17 points in the final frame, propelling an offense that otherwise struggled.
“We wanted to pound it in to Eli,” Bradley head coach Brian Wardle said. “He had to sit, I think, the last 10 minutes or so [of the first half], so he had good legs… He carried us in moments.”
The only other Brave in double figures was sophomore guard Ville Tahvanainen, who scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
For the Musketeers, the two man wrecking crew of sophomore forward Zach Freemantle and junior guard Paul Scruggs did most of the damage. Freemantle led all scorers with 19 points, followed by Scruggs with 17.
Bradley, now 1-1, will play its third game in three days tomorrow when it takes on Oakland at 2:15 p.m. to wrap up the Xavier Invitational. Oakland enters the matchup having lost its first two games of the season in blowout fashion.
Despite the disappointment of a last-second loss to a power-conference opponent, Wardle was far from disappointed in his team’s effort.
“We played a Big East opponent on their floor,” Wardle said. “I think we knew what we were getting into, and we competed… and showed a lot of heart. Hopefully, people are happy with that and if they’re not, too bad. We gotta move on.”