PEORIA, Ill. – Bradley guard Walt Lemon, Jr. scored a career-best 27 points and the Braves (13-9, 5-5 MVC) rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit to snap its longest losing streak in the Interstate 74 Rivalry with an 83-77 win against Illinois State (12-10, 3-7 MVC) Tuesday night at Carver Arena.
It appeared Bradley would be headed to its eighth-consecutive loss against the Redbirds, which would have been the longest drought for either team in the rivalry, when the Braves opened the game just 4-for-20 from the field. As cold as Bradley started, Illinois State was equally hot, making 9-of-13 field goal attempts en route to a 25-9 lead with 9:02 remaining.
Bradley withstood the rough start, however, and forced Illinois State into a season-high 23 turnovers, taking advantage of this miscues to the tune of a 27-16 advantage in points off turnovers. The Braves also outrebounded Illinois State, 35-31, and countered ISU’s 13-for-24 (.542) 3-point shooting by outscoring their visitors 46-14 in the paint.
Tyshon Pickett and Dyricus Simms-Edwards both scored 15 points in support of Lemon’s effort. The trio of Lemon (5 steals, 5 rebounds), Simms-Edwards (4, 6) and senior swing man Jake Eastman (3, 6) combined for 12 of Bradley’s 13 steals and 17 rebounds.
Jackie Carmichael and John Wilkins shared Illinois State team-high scoring honors with 16 points and guard Tyler Brown shook off a first-half hand injury to finish with 13 points, as well as game highs of eight rebounds and six assists.
After closing to within 36-28 at halftime, Bradley made 20-of-31 (.645) field goal attempts during a 55-point second half. Bradley’s 83 points equaled the most in Geno Ford’s two years as head coach (83 versus #24 Creighton Jan. 7, 2012) and were the most by either team in the rivalry since Bradley’s 88-67 win Jan. 24, 2007.
Fittingly, Lemon gave Bradley its first lead of the game, 43-42, with a breakaway dunk off a Simms-Edwards steal with 15:42 remaining. Illinois State answered with three 3-pointers during a 2-minute stretch, however, to reclaim a 51-45 lead and eventually stretched its advantage back to seven, 59-52, on a Jon Ekey 3-pointer with 7:56 remaining.
Eastman scored seven of his nine points over the next 3:45 and gave the Braves the lead for good, 65-63, when he buried Bradley’s second 3-pointer of the night from the left wing with 4:11 remaining.
The Braves will visit #17 Creighton Saturday afternoon for a 2:05 p.m. at CenturyLink Center, then will return to Carver Arena for consecutive home games Feb. 5 versus Evansville (7:05 p.m.) and Feb. 10 against UNI (2 p.m.).