In a homecoming for Bradley’s four-year leading scorer and Memphis native Darrell Brown, the senior guard was kept off the scoreboard for 36-plus minutes in a 71-56 loss to No. 15 Memphis on Tuesday night.
The contest was a defensive struggle for both sides. Bradley shot a dismal 26 percent on 88 shots, their lowest percentage of the season. The Tigers, who entered the game shooting 50 percent in seven games on the season, finished at 36 percent.
“We won the turnover war and rebounding war, and I’d never think we lose the game if we do that,” head coach Brian Wardle said. “If you’re gonna beat a team on the road, you gotta make some shots, and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
Moments after the opening tip, Memphis guard Damion Baugh cashed in a layup to give the Tigers the lead, which they never surrendered.
Memphis eventually extended its first half lead to eight, but the Braves cut it to two with 6:15 to play in the first half. That would be the closest the game would be the rest of the way, as Memphis went to the locker room with a 29-19 lead.
The second half started with a 7-0 Memphis run, setting the tone for the closing frame. Bradley would cut the Tigers lead to 40-31 with 12:39 remaining, but the Tigers would extend it back to 18 with about eight minutes remaining. The lead fluctuated back down to 10 with Brown’s first bucket at the 3:43 mark, but the lead eventually proved insurmountable.
“Not knocking down shots, it gets in your head a little bit,” junior forward Elijah Childs said. “It was a rough night for us, but we’ll learn from it.”
Childs stood out in the Bradley box score, posting a 21-point, 14 rebound double-double. Sophomore Ari Boya had a good game against a strong Memphis frontcourt, scoring four points to go with seven boards.
“Elijah carried us at times,” Wardle said. “Our bright spots were Ari Boya and Elijah Childs, I thought those two played very well and very hard and competed.”
Childs frequently matched up with Tigers standout freshman forward Precious Achiuwa, who entered the game averaging 15 points per game, second on the team to suspended NBA prospect James Wiseman. Childs held him to six points and matched him in the rebound department.
“At the end of the day, it’s basketball, no matter what people say, no matter what your rank is at, when you step on the court you gotta be ready to play,” Childs said. “I took the matchup kinda personal just because I felt like I got overlooked a little bit. But, overall, I feel like I played alright, but I care about the win more than individual play.”
Redshirt-junior guard Danya Kingsby finished second on the team in scoring with 12 points.
Brown finished with four points on 1-16 shooting from the floor, including 0-8 from 3-point distance. The performance is his worst scoring output since Jan. 12 at Missouri State last season, when he scored just one point.
“He had an off-night offensively, unfortunately it was in his hometown, but he’s a winner, and we’ll go to war with him any day,” Wardle said.
“That’s Darrell’s, probably, worst game of his career,” said Memphis head coach and Brown’s godfather, Penny Hardaway. “Just being at home in front of his family and his friends, and wanting to beat us really badly his senior season, it just kind of worked against him.”
Beyond Brown, it was a rough night for Bradley’s senior group as a whole. Koch Bar was held to no points on 0-6 shooting and three rebounds, while Nate Kennell scored just two points, going 1-8 from the field.
The Braves’ underclassmen saw a lot of minutes, including fellow Memphis native, freshman guard Antonio Thomas. In eight and a half minutes, Thomas scored four points and recorded an assist.
“It was a great experience for Antonio, just to get an opportunity to go out there. I thought he did a good job, as a young freshman,” Wardle said. “What Memphis does, they wear down your guards because they run and jump and they pick up full court. So you gotta give them blows, you gotta give [your guards] subs, but I thought Antonio was pretty solid for the most part.”
The loss brings Bradley to 5-3 on the season and extends the program’s losing streak against AP ranked teams to 20, dating back to 2010.
The Braves will return to Carver Arena on Saturday for a matchup with North Carolina A&T, who enters with a record of 2-6. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m.