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Rapid Recap: Braves fall to Colorado State in close battle decided by free throws

The Sports & Fitness Center at the University of the Virgin Islands, home of the Paradise Jam. Photo courtesy of St. Thomas Source

Although free throws can seem like an afterthought during a basketball game, the one-point baskets can have a crucial impact and the Bradley Braves found that out on Friday, dropping their Paradise Jam opener to Colorado State 66-60.

Bradley played gritty from start to finish but the Rams charged forth in the second half behind a  13-0 advantage in free throws and a 57% shooting performance from the field. At halftime, the Braves led 27-21 after their length, namely junior Malevy Leons, sophomore Rienk Mast and senior Ari Boya, all helped lock down the paint and force Colorado State into tough outside looks.

 After Bradley controlled the game with a slower tempo in the first, the Rams picked up the pace in the second half, going on a 29-15 run in the first 11:20 of the second half. Junior Terry Roberts tried to will the Braves to victory with three late second half three-pointers, but Colorado State was able to put the game away with eight free throws in the last four and a half minutes. 

Who: Colorado State’s David Roddy put the Rams on his back and led all scorers with a career-high 30 points to go with nine rebounds. The six-foot six-inch junior forward sunk 10 shots from the field, adding the same amount of makes from the free throw line. After the Rams led 45-42 with just under 10 minutes left in the second half, Roddy scored seven straight in less than two minutes for CSU to push their lead to 52-44. 

Junior guard Terry Roberts had his best game as a Brave, notching 24 points and six rebounds in 35 minutes on the court. After Roddy’s personal 7-2 run, Roberts responded with back to back deep balls to put Bradley within a possession. Roberts responded to another blow from Roddy with one of his one, following up the latter’s free throw with another three-pointer to make it 62-60 Colorado State with 53 seconds remaining. 

Senior Ja’Shon Henry and junior Ville Tahvanainen each followed with 10 points for the Braves while Jon Tonje chipped in 13 off the bench for the Rams, including the final four points to seal the victory. 

What: The loss moves Bradley to 1-3 on the season but the effort was arguably their best of the season. Colorado State came into the game at 3-0 and was favored to win by double digits. 

The Braves remain winless all-time against Mountain West conference schools but the Rams are the highest-ranked KenPom team on Bradley’s non-conference slate as of today. 

Bradley will head into the consolation bracket and face off with the loser of Creighton and Brown. The Braves’ possible opponents for their final game at the Paradise Jam on Monday include Colorado, Duquesne, Northeastern and MVC foe Southern Illinois. 

Where: The game was played on the campus of the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sports & Fitness Center. The last time the Braves played outside of the U.S., they knocked off SMU and Penn State on their way to winning the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico. 

The over 2,000 mile trek is the longest for Bradley during head coach Brian Wardle’s tenure. Colorado State arrived on the island on Wednesday, one day before Bradley’s plane landed. The ESPN3 broadcast was interrupted a multitude of times due to technical difficulties stemming from inadequate WiFi connection from the arena. 

When: Bradley jumped to a 27-19 lead, their biggest lead of the day, right before halftime. After Bradley led 37-32 with 14:08 to go, they made four of their last 10 three-pointers but missed their only three free throws of the second half, all with under 160 seconds to play. During that same span, the Rams shot 5-6 from the line. Overall, Bradley shot just 4-10 on their free throws. 

The Braves will have had approximately 24 hours to rest before their contest tomorrow afternoon against either Brown or Creighton at 2:15 p.m. CST.

Why: 

Wardle on how the game was decided: “We competed, we defended, we rebounded, [we] just got to get better execution offensively and free throw shooting was a big differential in the game,” Wardle said. “They got 25 of them and we got 10; there were a few silly fouls out there on our part that we’ve got to clean up defensively.” 

Roberts on what the outcome means for the team:  “I definitely think this game boosted our confidence because that was a very good team and I think we played extremely hard and competed as all of a team and we stayed together on the court.”

Wardle on the Brave’s offensive game: “Terry had a good game,” Wardle said. “I think he should have had a lot more assists too, he did  a good job of playmaking too, we just didn’t knock down shots. We’ve got a lot of things offensively that we need to work on but we’re moving in the right direction.” 

Wardle on the effect of David Roddy: “Roddy took over them in the second half; that’s what seniors do,” Wardle said. “But we guarded the three and did what we had to do defensively to stay in the game. They’re a high-scoring team.” 

Roberts on why Colorado State was able to gain control in the second half: “I still feel like we were competing on defense,” Roberts said. “They just made some tough shots and we got a little more things that we can get better at but they just made some tough shots.”

Wardle on the Braves’ team coming together: “They’re tough young men in that locker room and we’ve got to continue to become more connected,” Wardle said. “That’s a good thing I said about Colorado State, they’re very connected. They play two, three, four years together…and you can tell that on the court in close games.”

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