From the opening tip-off onward, Bradley dominated every facet of their 81-51 victory over Georgia Southern Sunday night.
Nearly all categories in the box score – including field goal percentage, assists, rebounds, points in the paint and fast break points – were won by the Braves in commanding fashion on their way to their 11th consecutive victory at Carver Arena.
“You don’t get too many of these blowout wins in college basketball because the teams are good and the players are great,” senior Darrell Brown said. “Just being able to get one of those wins is a confidence booster for sure.”
The Braves have racked up those rare blowout wins as of late, winning their last three games by at least 30 points, a feat the program hadn’t achieved since the 1958-59 season.
“I didn’t expect a 30-point game against this [Georgia Southern] team, this team is good,” head coach Brian Wardle said.
At the 18-minute mark of the first half, the Braves grabbed the lead, which they never surrendered. The lead was extended to 42-22 by halftime, thanks in part to Bradley’s defense, holding the Eagles to just 19 percent shooting from the field in the first frame.
The Braves’ defense shut down the Eagles’ attack inside the perimeter, preventing them from converting a field goal inside the arc for the first 16-plus minutes of the game.
“I thought we started very well defensively,” Wardle said. “[The] big emphasis was make them shoot contested jump shots and keep them off the foul line and we did a good job of both those things today.”
In the second half, the Eagles were able to cut the lead to 12 with just under 10 minutes to play, which prompted Wardle to call a timeout. The Braves responded with an 11-0 run and outscored Georgia Southern 23-5 in the final 9:45 of the game.
“It was more just [getting] back to the game plan that we executed so well in the first half and get our energy level up and get out and run,’” Wardle said of the timeout. “We kept the lead by making some shots during that stretch, and then we were able to get stops again.”
Bradley received contributions from up and down the roster, with all but two players scoring, and three finding double-figures.
Brown led all players with 17 points and seven assists. The 17-point output ties his season-high and is his best performance since Nov. 27 versus Kansas State.
Senior guard Nate Kennell scored 14 points, netting four 3-pointers to go with four assists.
Freshman guard Ville Tahvanainen had a break-out game, scoring 13 points on 5-5 shooting, all in the second half. The performance nearly doubles his previous career-high of seven points.
Junior Elijah Childs and redshirt-junior Danya Kingsby both scored nine points, followed by seven from sophomore Ja’Shon Henry. Senior Koch Bar added six points along with four assists.
“Our bench was really solid,” Wardle said. “If they can just play solid and smart, and then sprinkle in made shots here and there, that’s going to really help us.”
The Braves, now 8-3, will have five days off before their next game on Dec. 21 at Miami Ohio. Bradley will return to Peoria for its’ final non-conference matchup with Toledo on Dec. 28 before squaring off with Drake to open MVC play on the 31st.
Until then, the Braves are keeping things in perspective.
“I’ll remember these games … I just keep enjoying each one,” Kennell said. “Especially us seniors, just continuing to play hard, and just know that they’re coming to an end, so just having that perspective and just continuing to play as a team, and games like this are fun.”