The Bradley men’s basketball team began the Geno Ford era by defeating Wisconsin-Parkside 87-77 Tuesday night at the arena in its first exhibition of the season.
Senior forward Taylor Brown in his first action since missing the entire 2010-11 season with precautionary cardiac testing, led all scorers with 25 points and had a game-high eight rebounds.
“Taylor can really score the ball,” Ford said. “Basically they didn’t have anyone who could guard him one-on-one and I thought his teammates did a good job getting him the ball in spots where he had space to play. He didn’t look rusty shooting the ball which was a major plus for us.”
Brown said his emotions were running high in his first game back.
“It felt good just putting the jersey on,” he said. “When I got out there I didn’t want to do too much. Luckily, I got fouled right away and was able to get the first shot out of the way on a free throw.”
The Braves shot a blistering 52 percent from the field in Ford’s uptempo offense.
“I thought our effort was good,” Ford said. “We’ve got some things we need to clean up, no question, but I’d rather be in here trying to clean things up after winning one instead of getting beat which can happen in these games. We’ve got a lot to build from.”
The game was a back and forth affair through the first 20 minutes with Bradley leading 45-44 at halftime. The Braves took the lead for good with 9:42 left on freshman Donivine Stewart’s three pointer to make it 68-65.
Stewart was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and had 12 points, six assists and four rebounds.
“I was going with the flow,” Stewart said. “Coach put me in and told me to play how I play in practice. I just went with what the coaches said and stuck with it.”
Junior Jake Eastman and sophomore Walt Lemon Jr. each chipped in 13 points. Eastman added eight rebounds for the Braves.
Wisconsin-Parkside shot 46 percent from the floor. Ford said at times he was disappointed in the effort on the defensive end of the floor.
“We started the game and we weren’t really guarding at all,” he said. “Early we were so consumed with running. I thought at times we just kind of took off and didn’t really finish the defensive possession through. Then all of a sudden we lost sight of our guy.”
Ford said it was good for the team to play against an opponent with a different style than Bradley.
“It was good for us to play a team that can space us out and shoot it because when we play ourselves we get it up and down the floor and try to be active and use our quickness,” he said. “So to play someone that is totally different from what we do, I thought was helpful. There are people in our league who are going to try to space you out and shoot it in.”
The Braves will play its final exhibition game at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the College of Wooster at Carver Arena. Bradley will open the regular season in the Civic Center against the University of Missouri-Kansas City Nov. 13.