After shooting only 17% in the first Bradley came back to beat UIC 67-61. Meanwhile in Champaign the Illini defeated Eastern Washington 66-50.
Courtesy Bradley Sports Information:
Bradley overcame a cold-shooting first half by staying locked in on the defensive end and junior college transfers Dodie Dunson and Chris Roberts triggered a second-half comeback, leading the Braves (1-0) to a 67-61 season-opening win against UIC (0-1) in front of 10,034 fans Friday night at Carver Arena. Bradley won its 12th consecutive season-opening game played at home and improved to 14-1 all-time in season-openers at Carver Arena.
Dunson, who began his career at Iowa State during the 2006-07 season and transferred to Bradley from Vincenes University, scored a career-best 21 points, including seven straight during a 9-0 Bradley run late in the second half that stretched a 52-50 lead to 61-50 with just 1:07 remaining. A fellow transfer from Navarro Junior College, Roberts added 12 points and seven rebounds in his Bradley debut and swung the momentum to Bradley’s favor with acrobatic baskets on consecutive possessions. First he rose high for a one-handed follow slam of a Sam Maniscalco 3-point attempt for a 46-41 lead with 8:20 remaining, then followed with an up-and-under move for a 48-42 lead with 7:36 left.
Senior forward Theron Wilson turned in his fourth career double-double by matching his career-best with 13 rebounds to go along with his 12 points. Maniscalco added 14 points for the Braves. Sophomore guard Robo Kreps led the Flames with 24 points, including eight points in the final 58 seconds after the Braves built their lead to 61-50. Senior center Scott VanderMeer posted a double-double of his own with 15 points and 11 rebounds and senior guard Josh Mayo added 13 points.
Dunson drained a 3-pointer 27 seconds into the game to give Bradley a 3-0 lead, but the Braves managed only two more field goals the rest of the half and did not make a shot from inside the arc until Maniscalco’s deuce with his foot on the 3-point line with 1:45 remaining in the half. Bradley limited UIC to just 9-for-30 from the floor in the first half, however, and stayed in the game by making 12-of-17 free throw attempts in the first 20 minutes. UIC managed to stretch its lead to 12 points, 28-16, on a pair of VanderMeer free throws with 1:54 left in the half, but Bradley closed the gap to 28-20 at the break.
After making only 3-of-17 (.176) field goal attempts in the first half, Bradley hit 12-of-29 (.414) in the second period. Although the Flames made five more field goal attempts (20-for-57), Bradley continued to counter at the free throw line. The Braves finished 33-for-47 (.702) from the stripe. The 33 charity makes were the most by the team since hitting 35 in a 93-64 win against Bowling Green Dec. 3, 2005 and the 47 attempts were just three shy of the school record 50 tries Jan. 4, 1990 against Lamar.6
Bradley stormed back into the game by scoring nine of the first 11 points of the second half. Senior center Sam Singh gave the Braves their first lead, 37-36, since it was 7-6 by making a pair of free throws with 12:16 left and Dunson delivered a lasting lead when he broke a 39-39 tie with a corner trey with 10:04 left. Wilson’s 3-point play with 6:29 to go gave the Braves their first double-digit lead, 52-42.
The Flames did not go away easily, however, scoring the next eight points to pull within 52-50 on a Mayo jumper with 4:26 left. Dunson’s two free throws with 3:29 left halted the UIC run and the junior guard scored eight of Bradley’s final 15 points to help seal the win.
The Braves will not have much time to enjoy their season-opening win as they will visit #19 Florida (1-0) Sunday afternoon in the opening round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic. The 1:15 p.m. (CST) contest will be televised nationally on ESPNU.