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Bear repellent: Duke Deen makes history as Braves get back on track

Duke Deen gets fired up against Drake. Photo by Jenna Zeise.

Thirty-five points, nine treys and a bit of history made. 

Not often does a player get so hot that his own teammates start sitting back and enjoying the show, but senior Duke Deen once again made it happen. 

“Duke got cooking and I couldn’t believe they kept giving him open shots after he hit three after three,” junior Connor Hickman said. “It was fun to watch, man. I was having fun out there watching him hit all those shots.”

The Louisiana native put on a performance yet again, this time at the expense of the Missouri State Bears (15-13, 7-10 MVC), who looked to rewrite some recent bad history against the Braves (19-9, 11-6 MVC).

“He said the cajun man was hot tonight, and he definitely had that hot sauce from Louisiana tonight, for sure,” Braves head coach Brian Wardle said. 

Deen penciled his name into the history books after his ninth trey crowned him as the Brave with the most made threes in a single game. 

“I know I can make them, but to start the game you want to get your feet wet, so I took a couple of open shots and I just took what they gave me honestly,” Deen said. 

It was a record that many Braves before Deen had tried to surpass, but they only came so close. Former Braves Anthony Parker, Danny Adams and Anthony Manuel all shared the record with eight, and even Deen himself hit the eight-threes mark 12 times before he reached the top of the list. 

Scoring 35 points, Deen went 13-17 from the field and 9-12 from beyond the arc, making it the best scoring effort of his career and enough to reach 1,000 Division I points.

See-saw battle in Missouri

Despite losing three of their last four games, the Braves’ camp didn’t let the poor performances get to them during practice. 

“We’ve been having good practices, even with our losses as well, and we just try to stay the course and we really wanted to put together two halves today, and if we keep putting together two halves we’re going to be hard to beat,” Deen said. 

Digging multi-digit holes has become a theme for Bradley this season as they left for the locker room with an 18-point disadvantage in their last game against Northern Iowa. They flipped the script against Missouri State, beating the Bears 86-62.

Although the Braves started the game at Great Southern Bank Arena with a signature Hickman three and a thunderous dunk by senior Darius Hannah, Bradley couldn’t capitalize off of the Bears’ early shooting struggles. 

Defensively, the Braves kept Missouri State quiet, generating stops while keeping the Bears nibbling at the free throw line. While things were working defensively for Bradley, offensively they were struggling to gain a real advantage, shooting just 4-12 in the first frame to give them a small 10-5 lead heading into the first media timeout.

“I’m more proud of the defense,” Wardle said. “I thought we played over 30 minutes of defense tonight, consistent, disciplined and I’ve been on them about that and we need to continue that as we go down the stretch.” 

It would take the Bears almost five minutes before they caught a whiff of a successful field goal shot, as Cesare Edwards made his jumper with 13:36 left in the first half. 

The missing Linke

Coming off the bench, many were surprised to see senior Connor Linke out on the court instead of sophomore Ahmet Jonovic. 

“I think Linke brought a good veteran, calming voice to our group today,” Wardle said. “Some players and coaches suggested that ‘hey it’s time.’ We know Meta [Jonovic] has won us some games, Kyle [Thomas] has played well in some games but let’s give Linke, a guy who has been practicing really well the last month or two, a shot.”

“We need those veterans on the floor, and he brought some veteran stability out there with his talk and his consistency, especially defensively,” Wardle added. 

Adding Linke to the floor gave the Braves extra length and experience, which the Braves needed as Missouri State got more comfortable with Bradley’s defensive system. Figuring things out on offense, the Bears went on a 12-3 run to take a 19-16 lead over Bradley with 10:43 to go. 

Leons in the lane

As both teams went cold, the Braves didn’t recover their lead until the final six minutes of the half. Despite not scoring in the first 14 minutes, graduate senior Malevy Leons went on a run of his own, scoring seven points to give Bradley a 25-20 lead with 3:30 left. 

Using his size and length in the paint, Leons attacked the Bears in the post. Though he is known for his defensive expertise, Leons did his work on offense, scoring 17 points and going 7-14 in his 29-minute shift. 

With 30 seconds left in the half, the Bears brought the game within six points as Bradley headed into the locker room with a 33-27 advantage. 

“We needed to put a 35-minute game together, 30 to 35 minutes, we can’t be a one half team and I think we’ve been a one half team these past couple of games,” Hickman said. “Digging ourselves holes in the first half and trying to fight back out in the second half, just trying to stay the course in the first half and knowing that we can blow the game out in the second half.”

Bears claw back

The back and forth battle continued in the second half, and while Bradley tried to pull ahead, Missouri State was never far behind. 

Even though the Bears missed their first two shots of the frame, a full team effort resulted in a 6-8 shooting run for 13 points in a little over six minutes. Wardle called his Braves into a timeout after the Bears’ Alston Mason drained a 3-pointer on a fast break, reducing the Braves’ lead to 45-40 with 14:33 left. 

Just when it seemed Bradley had the upper hand, Missouri State found a way back into the game. They did not expect, however, the Cajun man was about to get hot. 

Bringing the heat

In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, Deen started filling up his stat sheet with points and treys after a 10-point first half performance. After the timeout, the Braves countered with a 15-2 run with Hickman, Deen and freshman Almar Atlason each landing a trey in that four-minute span. 

While Missouri State tried to contain the Braves’ offense by countering with more defensive pressure and their signature physicality, Bradley was unfazed as Deen slotted in his eighth three to give Bradley a 24-point advantage, their largest of the game so far. 

With 5:10 left in the half, the Bears tried to chip away at the deficit but couldn’t handle the onslaught. As the last few minutes of the game escaped from the clock, the Bears lost their grasp on the seventh seed, dropping down the standings. 

After digging themselves into a double-digit hole in their last road game against Northern Iowa, Deen was happy to not have to bring out the shovels against Missouri State. 

“Honestly I’m tired of trying to come back from 20 points,” Deen said. “I mean it’s draining, we can do it cause we’ve done it all year and won games, and lost some, but I just want to stay solid throughout the game.” 

In a season filled with highs and lows, Bradley will have to squeeze as much as they can out of this last victory as they meet their I-74 rivals yet again.

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