PEORIA, Ill. -- The Bradley women's basketball team opens the final home stand of the 2012-13 regular season Thursday, hosting I-74 rival Illinois State in a 6 p.m. game at Renaissance Coliseum.
The Braves (13-14 overall, 7-9 MVC) moved into sole possession of sixth-place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with a pair of road victories at Southern Illinois (77-61) and Evansville (73-57) last week with two games remaining before next week's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Charles, Mo. (March 14-17).
Bradley has won six of its last nine overall and three of the last four home games heading into Thursday's matchup with Illinois State (20-8 overall, 12-4 MVC), which is third in the Valley heading into the final week of play.
With most teams in the Valley having two games to play, the Braves can finish as high as a tie for fifth or as low as tied for seventh in the final league standings. Bradley can lock up the #6 seed for next week's tournament with at least one victory in the final two games or losses by both Evansville and Missouri State this week.
The Purple Aces play games at Creighton (Thursday) and at Drake (Saturday), while Missouri State hosts league-leading Wichita State Saturday afternoon. BU can finish as high as a tie for fifth with either Northern Iowa or Indiana State and has a chance to potentially earn the #5 seed should the Braves tie with Indiana State for fifth in the standings and Wichita State wins the regular-season title.
The Braves have matched their conference win total (7) from each of the last two years and can post a top-six league finish for the first time since tying for third in the Valley in 2009-10. Bradley has already guaranteed a better record in the second half of Missouri Valley Conference play than in the first half of league action for the third consecutive year.
BradleyBraves.com will provide links to video (subscription) and audio (free) streams of Thursday's game against Illinois, along with live stats.
Senior Katie Yohn (Elgin, Ill./St. Edward) earned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career Monday, after helping Bradley sweep the final road swing of the regular season for the third consecutive year. Yohn scored 22.0 points per game on 73 percent shooting and also averaged 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and 4.5 steals per game in the two road wins. Over the last nine games, she has averaged 16.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.7 steals per game, while shooting 58 percent from the field.
Sophomore Shronda Butts (Des Moines, Iowa/East) returned to the starting lineup last weekend and is averaging 14.4 points and 4.0 assists per game to go with a 1.31 assist-to-turnover ratio in her 17 starts this season. Junior Catie O'Leary (Janesville, Wis./Parker/Wisconsin) came off the bench in the two wins to average 7.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals. O'Leary had six assists with no turnovers in Sunday's victory at Evansville for the most assists without a turnover by a Bradley player since Rachel Merriman had eight assists without a turnover at Indiana State on Jan. 10, 2008.
Bradley concludes the regular-season Saturday with a 2 p.m. game against Indiana State. Seniors Brooke Bisping and Katie Yohn will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony prior to Saturday's matchup with the Sycamores.