PEORIA, Ill. - Dyricus Simms-Edwards poured in a career-high 32 points and Walt Lemon Jr. added 18, but it wasn't enough for Bradley (14-11, 6-7 MVC) to overcome a 19-point halftime deficit against UNI (14-11, 7-6 MVC) Sunday afternoon at Carver Arena.
The Panthers took advantage of a cold-shooting Bradley squad to build a 37-18 halftime lead, then made 13-of-14 free throws in the second half to withstand a furious rally by Simms-Edwards and the Braves for a 68-65 win.
Simms-Edwards scored 26 of his points in the second half, including 20 during a span of 4-minutes, 54-seconds that helped trim a 48-36 deficit to 58-56 on his career-best-tying fifth 3-pointer of the game with 4:46 left. The Braves had four shots in the air to tie the game down the stretch, but we never able to get over the hump.
After Lemon sliced the deficit to one, 66-65, with a drive to the hoop with 15 seconds left, he was called for his fifth foul trying to steal the inbounds pass. Jake Koch made both free throws for a 68-65 lead and Simms-Edwards missed two 3-point field goal attempts on the final Bradley possession.
Marc Sonnen led four Panthers in double-figures with 15 points, while Koch and Matt Bohannon both scored 14 and Anthony James chipped in with 10. Simms-Edwards and Lemon combined for 50 of Bradley's 65 points, making 20-of-35 (.571) field goal attempts while the rest of the team made just 6-of-21 (.286) from the floor. The duo was 14-for-23 from the floor after halftime and combined for 37 of Bradley's 47 second-half points.
After taking a 41-14 halftime lead in the season's first meeting Jan. 12 in Cedar Falls, the Panthers turned in another stifling first-half defensive performance Sunday, limiting the Braves to 18 points on 7-for-27 (.259) shooting in the first half. Bradley entered the game seventh nationally by accumulating better than 10 steals per game, but managed only one steal, by reserve center Jordan Prosser, in the opening stanza.
Bradley turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and got back into the game by holding UNI without a point for the first 7:08 of the period. Tyshon Pickett's layup with 12:18 left following a Simms-Edwards steal completed a 14-0 Bradley run to start the half and got the Braves to within 37-32.
Deon Mitchell ended the UNI drought by sinking two free throws, then buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 42-32 lead with 12:02 left. Tha Panthers eventually stretched their lead back to 14, 48-34, before Simms-Edwards took control.
Though Bradley shot 19-for-29 (.655) from the floor in the second half, compared to 6-for-17 (.353) for UNI, the Panthers did make 6-of-10 3-point tries in the second half, as well as 13-of-14 free throw tries.
After seeing its four-game home winning streak come to an end, Bradley will play four of its final six regular-season games on the road, beginning Wednesday night when it shoots for a sweep of Interstate 74 rival Illinois State. The Braves overcame a 16-point first-half deficit for an 83-77 win Jan. 29 in the season's first rivalry matchup, but now will visit Redbird Arena, where they have not won since 2007.