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Braves throttle Evansville, sweep series

Ja’Shon Henry celebrates an and-one bucket in the first half of a victory over Evansville on Sunday. Photo by Josh Schwam, Bradley Athletics.

After a nine point victory in the first game of the series with Evansville, Bradley head coach Brian Wardle was ready for another close one to close the series. 

“I was worried this morning, because it’s hard to beat a team back-to-back,” Wardle said. 

Whatever fears Wardle had were quelled by his team in the opening minutes of an 86-55 victory on Sunday afternoon at Carver Arena. 

The Braves started the game with a 15-3 run and never looked back to take the Aces wire-to-wire and sweep the regular season series. 

“We all thought that we didn’t play our best yesterday,” sophomore guard Ville Tahvanainen said. “We got hot early and we wanted to keep that on the whole game.” 

After Saturday’s victory featured dominant play in the paint, hot shooting from 3-point range helped Bradley build an insurmountable lead on Sunday. The team made seven 3s in the first half, on its way to shooting 10-20 from deep for the game. 

Evansville – a team that scores about half of its points via the 3 – struggled with the deep ball, shooting 9-27 from deep and just 34 percent overall. 

“It was in the flow of the offense, we were moving the ball,” Wardle said. “You felt like we had a lot of options. We seemed fresh out there, we seemed to have some legs.” 

All 12 of the team’s available players saw the floor and 10 of them scored. Junior forward Ja’Shon Henry led the way with a 16-point, five rebound effort after scoring just one point Saturday. Junior guard Terry Nolan Jr. added 13 points, nine of which coming via the three. 

Senior forward Elijah Childs scored 10 points, continuing his double-figures streak that dates back to the first game of the season. 

Freshman forward Connor Linke scored the first field goal of his career against a division-I opponent in the closing minutes of the route, resulting in an eruption from the Bradley bench. Freshman walk-on Thomas Hall also received two minutes of play, but missed the only 3 he took.

“Those guys haven’t played a lot of minutes, but I know they’re hard workers,” Tahvanainen said. “It’s special for us to see them go out there and ball out… I’ve been shooting with Thomas, he’s a good shooter. Next time he gets that shot, he’ll knock it down.” 

The 31-point margin of victory is the Braves’ largest in Missouri Valley Conference play in 21 years. With the win, Bradley improves to 3-1 in MVC play and 9-4 overall. 

The team returns to action on Wednesday night to square off with I-74 rival Illinois State on the road at 8 p.m.

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