When the Braves went into halftime up just four points over North Carolina A&T, one player took charge in the locker room.
“It was really the Elijah Childs show at halftime,” Bradley head coach Brian Wardle said. “He brought the energy, and he brought the enthusiasm in that locker room.”
The Elijah Childs show extended into the second half, where the junior forward scored 17 points to lead the Braves to a 83-52 victory over the Aggies, their largest margin of victory this season.
After not being able to extend its lead to more than eight in the first half, Bradley energized the Carver Arena crowd by starting the second half on a 7-0 run that set the tone for the closing period.
“It was a grind it out first half,” Wardle said. “I thought in the second half we were able to get up and down and get some stops, and we strung together three stops in a row, which always opens the game up for us … we took care of the ball much better and dictated the tempo, which was good.”
Following their worst shooting performance (27 percent) of the season in Tuesday’s loss to a nationally ranked Memphis squad, the Braves turned the tables by shooting 53 percent from the floor Saturday, their highest mark of the season. The Aggies were held to just 25 percent shooting for the game.
“It’s always tough when you have a poor shooting night, but we got back to practice and got a lot of shots up and got a lot of guys more confident in their shot, and tonight they were falling,” Childs said.
Childs led the Braves with a season-high 23 points along with nine rebounds, his second consecutive game leading the team in both categories.
“[It’s] just being locked in every game, just knowing what I have to do for this team in order for us to win,” Childs said. “It’s just going to my bread and butter, not letting anybody stop what I can do, and what I’m best at, and that’s down-low, getting to my left-hand hook.”
As a team, the Braves were dominant in the paint, outscoring NC A&T 34-6.
“Points in the paint was huge,” Wardle said. “That’s the number you like to see, because that’s executing the game plan.”
After combining for just six points last game, Bradley’s three seniors Nate Kennell, Darrell Brown and Koch Bar combined for 29 points.
“As a senior, we’ve been there before, we’ve struggled before as a team,” Bar said following his 10-point, eight-rebound and four-assist performance. “For me, I need to come out here, execute the game plan, and have confidence in my shot.”
Brown got back into double figures with 10 points along with six assists. Kennell had nine points, all coming from beyond the arc.
Bradley’s freshmen group also put together a nice game, with Stephan Gabriel and Ville Tahvanainen posting season highs and walk-on Sean Houpt sinking his first collegiate basket via the 3-pointer.
Gabriel scored 12 points, including a slam dunk that electrified the announced crowd of 5,087 at the 12 minute mark of the second half. Tahvananinen scored six points along with an assist and two rebounds.
“I thought Ville played well … defensively he was solid, he passed the ball real well … He’s really coming along,” Wardle said. “Steph came in and gave us great energy, attacked the rim, attacked the paint, and when he does that, he’s a tough player to handle.”
The win brings Bradley to a 6-3 record as it approaches the final stretch of the non-conference slate with three games left to play.
“[This win] is just one, we’ve got three big ones in a row, so we’ve got two more,” Wardle said. “We’ve got our hands full still in this non-conference play at home … We’ve got some good teams coming through here soon, and we’ve gotta handle our business.”
The Braves return to Carver Arena for a matchup with Division II Maryville Tuesday night at 6.