Bradley couldn’t come away with a victory in its first road season opener since 2009 on Tuesday, falling to St. Joseph’s 86-81.
It was a closely contested battle from the start, as neither team held a lead of more than eight points. The lead swapped hands five times. The Braves held a 45-43 halftime lead.
The second half remained closely contested, but Bradley fell behind for good after a goaltending call gave the Hawks a two-point lead in the closing minutes. The Braves kept the game within two points with as little as 14 seconds remaining, but St. Joe’s sealed the game with free throws.
“We did some good things, it’s a great atmosphere, it was a great experience for our guys’ first game,” head coach Brian Wardle said in an interview with WMBD’s Dave Snell following the loss. “It’s a game we feel we easily could’ve won.”
Bradley’s defense held St. Joseph’s to a shooting percentage of 41.9 percent, and a 3-point percentage of just 19.4 percent. However, fouls were the deciding factor, as the Hawks shot 32 free throws, making 28 of them.
“When you’re giving up 28 points from the foul line and 38 points in the paint, it’s hard to beat anyone,” Wardle said. “Defensively, competing and defending a little bit better and smarter, we needed to do and we didn’t do that.”
Because of foul trouble, the Braves played a number of different lineups, and all nine players who checked in for the Braves scored.
“We had to mix and match a little bit,” Wardle said. “I was proud of some of these freshmen, and [junior Danya Kingsby] who hasn’t played in a year and a half, to just come in, in this type of atmosphere, and do some good things.”
Of the nine Braves who scored, five reached double figures. Senior Darrell Brown led the way with 17, followed by senior Nate Kennell with 15.
Senior center Koch Bar posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. The double-double is Bar’s second of his career and his first since his freshman year.
Bradley was burned by 26 points from Hawks redshirt-junior guard Ryan Daly and 18 points from sophomore forward Myles Douglas. Daly, a transfer from Delaware, was held to seven points in two prior career games against Bradley.
“We all gotta do our jobs better, myself included, and we’ll go back on film, and we’ll improve,” Wardle said. “We have 31 games left.”
The first of those games features IUPUI tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Carver Arena for the Braves’ home opener.