Bradley fell to Illinois State on the road by a score of 66-54 on Wednesday night. But 66 and 54 aren’t the numbers to take away from the contest.
They read like a powerball ticket: 77, 5, 7, 18 and 4. It took 77 possessions for the Braves to make five or more passes, and only four times during the game did Bradley make five or more passes.
Of the Braves’ 18 made field goals, only four featured an assist.
“The stat that sticks out the most [is the assists],” said Bradley head coach Andrea Gorski. “And that’s not how [we usually are], usually we’re in double-digits assists. We just didn’t want to move the ball. I mean, we had open passes, they defended us exactly how we prepared the last few days. Exactly. And we just didn’t want to make the extra pass today.”
It was a cold effort from the start for the Braves, who now stand at 10-6 and 6-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bradley connected on only 10 of its first 31 shot attempts and finished the first half 0-11 from beyond the arc.
Thanks to a solid defensive effort, Illinois State’s lead at the half was slim. The Redbirds entered the locker room with a 31-25 advantage on 14 points from Juliunn Redmond.
The top of the Braves lineup was quiet for most of the first half, save for an 8-point half from senior Nyjah White. Junior Lasha Petree was a quiet 0-9 from the field and entered the break with 2 points while senior Gabi Haack was held to just four shots and 4 points.
“We’ve got to be a more mature team,” Gorski said. “And that’s the challenge I just gave them is we’ve got to be a more mature team … Illinois State [is a] good solid defensive team. But it was exactly how we scouted them. They didn’t do anything different than we thought, either end of the floor.”
The tide did turn a little for the Braves in the back half of the game, though not significantly. Petree was able to convert on three of five shots on her way to a 9-point frame, but the Redbirds responded with timely shots and built their lead by a basket.
And better passing never came.
“In the second half, you know, if we had three or more passes three or four times I’d be shocked,” Gorski said. “So that’s just not smart basketball. We’ve got to do a better job. And we will do a better job.”
Petree finished with 13 points to lead the Braves, followed by White’s 10-point outing and Haack with 8 points. Illinois State was led by Redmond and Terrion Moore, who both had 20 points to their name when the final buzzer sounded.
Bradley has some time off before facing Valparaiso on the road on February 4. That game will tip-off at 6 p.m. on ESPN+.