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Early defense sets the tone in win over IUPUI

Junior Elijah Childs scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in Bradley's home opener. Photo by Kayla Johnson.

The Bradley men’s basketball team held IUPUI scoreless for the first seven minutes of play in a 90-56 defeat at Carver Arena on Saturday night. 

Bradley scored the first 16 points of the home opener after former player Peter Hanley, a Peoria native, unveiled the 2019 NCAA tournament appearance marker on the large banner on the upper level of Carver Arena. As is customary at Bradley basketball games, the crowd stood until the Braves’ opponent scored and the 5,518 fans in attendance did not falter.

Junior forward Elijah Childs recorded 22 points and 15 rebounds. Senior point guard Darrell Brown joined the double-double party with 6:16 remaining in the game by sinking a free throw shot. He ended with 14 points and 10 assists. 

The connection between the two was evident. The pairing accounted for 40 percent of Bradley’s scoring and 63.2 percent of its assists.

Childs scored 14 of his points in the first half by utilizing a tough left-handed hook. Nine of his 10 baskets were made in the lane.

“I’m most effective when I’m down low and close to the basket,” Childs said. “My jumpshot [was] not falling, so [I had] do something else. My jumphook was working so I just stayed with it.”

Brown showed out as a true point guard and tied his career-high in assists. 

“I always just have a mindset that when I play basketball, to just play the right way,” Brown said. “If you have a shot take it, if you have got a pass and an open teammate just make the right play. My teammates did a great job of making shots.” 

The entire starting five scored in double figures and all nine players dressed but walk-on freshman Sean Houpt, who saw three minutes of game action, recorded a point.

Head coach Brian Wardle said the starting unit set the tone for the game and worked the game plan, slowing down IUPUI juniors Jaylen Minnett and Marcus Burk, just as he had hoped.

“They were really locked into the game plan and I thought they executed it really well,” Wardle said. “It was a great team effort … and the way we started the game really set the tone for the group and all the freshmen coming off the bench.” 

Of those freshmen, Stephen Gabriel played 20 minutes and filled the void of sophomore Ja’Shon Henry who was scratched at gametime with a hand injury. Gabriel had an electric dunk-and-one that brought the crowd to its feet with 4:26 remaining in the game.

Bradley held IUPUI to 35.2 percent shooting, forced 15 turnovers and only allowed 10 assists. 

The Braves on the other hand, converted 47.8 percent of their field goal attempts, turned the ball over seven times and dished out 19 assists. 

At Saint Joseph’s last Tuesday, the Braves committed 28 fouls. In the home opener they had 15 called against them. 

“We protected the paint a lot better,” Wardle said. “I thought our team defense was much better [this game], it was more dialed in, and we trusted it and each other a bit more. They came out and executed, [and were] in the gaps a lot better than [in Philadelphia].”

Wardle had praise for Brown and said he oversaw the pace from the opening tip.

“He controlled the tempo,” Wardle said. “I thought he controlled our transition game, how fast we played. He did a great job of controlling the pace. He played off two feet. He jump stopped, got in the paint and really created a lot of opportunities off two feet [which is something the coaching staff has been stressing].”

Wardle said the Braves need to continue to spread the wealth in order to be successful this season. 

“If we want to be a good team this year and do something we have got to find the hot hand. I think teams that are unselfish can do some really big things as the year goes on,” Wardle said.

The Braves play University of Illinois at Chicago at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Carver Arena.

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