After leading for nearly the entirety of the first 36 minutes of the game, Bradley men’s basketball couldn’t finish off Loyola-Chicago in the final minutes and fell 65-58 Monday night at Carver Arena. The loss marks the Braves’ third in a row and a sweep by the Ramblers in the weekend series.
“Loyola is just better than us right now,” Bradley head coach Brian Wardle said. “We put ourselves in a position to win, we just didn’t make the plays and they did.”
Contrary to Sunday night’s 69-56 loss, the Braves put themselves in prime position with an 8-0 run to start the game and never trailed in the first half. Much of that effort was led by senior forward Elijah Childs, who cashed in 12 points – outdueling Ramblers senior star Cameron Krutwig.
Bradley carried its strong start into the second half, staving off Loyola’s comeback attempts until the clock hit single digits.
Then, thanks to sophomore guard Marquise Kennedy, the Ramblers found an extra gear. The sophomore cashed in 16 of his game-high 18 points in the final frame, which was enough for Loyola to remain in contention and then grind out the victory.
“[Bradley] was playing intense and was playing physical and those are my favorite games” Kennedy said. “I just tried to spread that energy to my team and everybody started playing harder and knocking down big time shots… Just playing in games like that, you got to love them.”
After the Braves were up by seven with 7:12 remaining, Loyola took its first lead of the game on a Keith Clemons 3 pointer at the 4:38 mark and never trailed following that point.
A large part of the Braves second half struggles were due to foul trouble. With just under 13 minutes to play in the second half, Childs picked up his fourth foul, which relegated him to the bench for much of Loyola’s surge.
Junior guard Terry Nolan, who fouled out on Sunday, entered the second frame with no fouls but quickly picked up five in the final 14 minutes of action.
“[Loyola’s] offense is always moving, always cutting, so I think that’s what’s different than the rest of the teams in the league,” Nolan said. “We had an answer for it, we just didn’t finish down the stretch.”
Ironically, the two were the Braves’ leading scorers. Childs was ice cold in the second half, missing all of his three shots to finish with 12 points. Nolan led the team with 17 points, nine in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to stave off the Ramblers.
“We were right where we wanted to be,” Wardle said. “Under the four minute TV [timeout], right there to win the game. We just didn’t make the plays and Marquise Kennedy made some huge shots for them.”
The loss drops Bradley to 9-7 and 3-4 in Missouri Valley Conference play. The back-to-back victories by Loyola mark the second consecutive regular season sweep of the Braves, after the Ramblers defeated the Braves in both the team’s matchups last season.
Loyola, now 13-3 (8-1) will tie for first place in the league if Drake loses one of its two games to Missouri State this week.
“That Loyola team, that’s an NCAA Tournament team right there,” Wardle said. “They’re tough, they’re veterans, they’re experienced, they’re well coached.”
The Braves will just have two days to regroup prior to the team’s next game at Valparaiso on Thursday night at 6 p.m. The Crusaders are currently 2-3 in Valley play, following two victories over Illinois State.
Despite the three-game schneid and another quick turnaround coming up, Wardle remains confident moving forward.
“We have high character guys,” Wardle said. “We’re in a little bit of a funk right now, you can tell that. But I think, we will, get out of this because we’re going to put the work in … But a lot of guys laid their hearts out there today.”