PEORIA, Ill. – Bradley senior forward Theron Wilson did a little bit of everything Satuday afternoon, scoring a season-high 26 points, grabbing a game-high seven rebounds, dishing out a career-best five assists and using eight of his deflections for two steals to lead the Braves (14-12, 8-7 MVC) to an 86-79 Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball victory against Evansville (15-10, 7-8 MVC) in front of 10,404 fans at Carver Arena.
Bradley snapped a season-long four-game losing streak by scoring a season-best 86 points. The Braves shot a season-best 59.5 percent from the field, which included a 19-for-27 (.704) effort from inside the 3-point line. The league’s most-frequent free throw shooter, Wilson made 14-of-18 attempts to lead Bradley’s overall 30-for-37 (.811) effort from the free throw line. The Braves needed the offensive effort because Evansville shot 52.9 percent (27-51) from the field and made 22-of-28 (.786) free throw attempts. The teams combined for 50 personal fouls – 28 by Evansville and 22 by Bradley.
Evansville senior guards Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger both scored 20 points and forward Nate Garner added 15 points before fouling out with 3:53 remaining. The Purple Aces also got 10 points off the bench from guard Kavon Lacey before he fouled out with 51.6 seconds left. The Braves also had four double-digit scorers. In addition to Wilson’s 26 points, the most by a Bradley player this season, guard Sam Maniscalco pumped in 16 points, backcourt mate Dodie Dunson added 13 and reserve forward Chris Roberts scored 12.
Evansville led for only 15 seconds of game time, 8-7 after a Kaylon Williams jumper 4:58 into the first half, but the Braves struggled to put the visitors away. Bradley reserve center Sam Singh gave the lead back to the Braves, 9-8, by answering Williams’ basket with a post bucket with 14:47 left in the half. After James Haarsma tied the score by splitting a pair of free throws, Roberts beat the shot clock with a tough 3-pointer over Ely to launch an 8-0 Bradley run. A Dunson 3-pointer with 7:33 left in the half eventually gave the Braves a nine-point lead, 24-15, and Bradley settled for a 41-33 advantage at halftime.
Evansville stormed back to start the second half, hitting the Braves with a 12-4 burst to pull even, 45-45, on a Garner basket with 16:40 remaining. The Purple Aces forced two more ties at 47-47 and 49-49, but Bradley continued to answer and would not let Evansville pull ahead. A Roberts baseline slam put the Braves ahead for good, 51-49, with 13:33 remaining and Bradley used a parade to the free throw line to gain some separation.
Wilson (4-4) and Singh (2-2) started a 9-2 Bradley surge by making 6-of-6 free throws and Dunson capped the run with Bradley’s only 3-pointer of the second half for a game-high 10-point lead, 64-54, with 9:41 left. With Bradley again leading by 10, 72-62, after a one-handed Roberts alley-oop slam with 5:50 remaining, Evansville gradually fought back and pulled to within three, 77-74, when Lacey scored inside with 2:19 remaining.
Bradley closed out the game by making 9-of-12 free throw attempts and limiting Evansville to just 1-for-5 shooting in the final two minutes.
Courtesy Bradley Sports Information