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Rapid Recap: Bradley defeats UTEP to win Don Haskins Sun Bowl invite

Bradley men’s basketball poses with the Don Haskins Sun Bowl invitational trophy after defeating UTEP 73-66 on Dec. 22nd. Photo via Bradley Athletics / @BradleyUMBB on Twitter

After a 14-point 2nd-half comeback, Bradley men’s basketball captured the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational  title on Wednesday night, defeating Texas-El Paso 73-66 on the Miners’ home floor. 

The regular season tournament title is the Braves’ first since 2018, when it defeated Penn State to win the Cancun Challenge. 

Who

For the second straight game and fifth time in the last six games, junior guard Terry Roberts led the Braves in scoring, pouring in a season-high 26 points. 

Junior forward Malevy Leons posted 11 points and 7 rebounds, knocking in a handful of timely buckets in the second half to help lead the Braves comeback. 

Sophomore swingman Jayson Kent rounded out the Braves in double figures with 10 points. 

After scoring 49 points in two games, Roberts was named tournament MVP, and Leons was named to the all-tournament team, tallying 26 points in the event. 

When 

After leading at the half 33-30, UTEP’s lead burgeoned to 14 points with 14:04 remaining in the contest. Over the next 10 minutes, Bradley whittled the lead down, and eventually took a 62-61 lead with a Rienk Mast triple with 4:49 on the clock. 

Roberts followed with an and-one layup to push the lead to three. While the Miners tied the game moments later, they never took the lead again. 

What 

The victory moves the Braves record above .500 for the first time this season at 7-6. 

However, in the big picture, the win is a much more significant milestone – head coach Brian Wardle’s 100th victory at Bradley, the 8th headman to do so on the Hilltop. 

Where 

The victory was snatched from the Miners at the Don Haskins Center, where UTEP was previously 5-3 entering the contest. UTEP had won each of the last two Sun Bowl titles. 

Why/How

Wardle on Rienk Mast’s go-ahead three: “It always comes down to the big moments, and the big shots, in these games… You could sense the momentum change.”

Wardle on his 100th win at Bradley: “It’s a great group, I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group than this group, right here.”

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