PEORIA, Ill. – Bradley sophomore guard Sam Maniscalco scored a career-best 18 points and senior forward Theron Wilson added 17, leading the Braves (7-5, 1-0 MVC) to a 79-63 victory against Southern Illinois (5-7, 0-1) in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both teams Sunday afternoon at Carver Arena. The win snapped a four-game slide against the Salukis and ended a brief two-game skid in league openers.
Southern Illinois has built a reputation for playing rugged defense over the years, but the Braves turned in the defensive gem Sunday while slicing up the Salukis on the offensive end. Bradley shot 55.0 percent from the field, including a 7-for-13 (.538) effort from 3-point land, and at the other end, the Braves limited Southern Illinois to just 33.3 percent (17-51) shooting from the floor. The Salukis were even colder until making 3-of-4 field goal attempts in the final 1-minute, 58-seconds. Bradley also entered the game ninth in The Valley by shooting just 66.2 percent from the free throw line, but the Braves made 28-of-32 (.875) charity attempts, including a stretch of 18 consecutive makes.
Trailing 27-26 with 5:19 left in the first half, Bradley closed the period on a 15-3 run to take a 41-30 lead into the break. The Braves then broke the game open by hitting the Salukis with an 11-0 run to start the second half, building a 52-30 bulge on three Maniscalco free throws with 15:16 remaining. The Braves ultimately built the lead to as many as 27 points on three occasions, the last 77-50 on a Darian Norris 3-pointer with 2:16 remaining.
Southern Illinois came into the game 17th in the nation by shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. The Salukis ended the game 10-for-26 (.385) from behind the arc, but while guard Kevin Dillard drained 5-of-7, the rest of his teammates combined to make just 5-of-19 (.263). Dillard finished with a game-high 21 points, while senior guard Bryan Mullins added 11 points and six assists for the Salukis.
Sam Singh returned to action for the first time since Dec. 14 against Southeast Missouri State, when he suffered a broken nose early in his first start of the season. Playing with a mask to protect the surgically-repaired nose, Singh chipped in eight points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and a career-best five steals to energize the Braves.
Bradley will be on the road for a pair of Valley games next week: Dec. 31 at Wichita State and Jan. 3 at Missouri State. Bradley will return home for a pair of games Jan. 6 versus Interstate 74 rival Illinois State and Jan. 10 against league preseason favorite Creighton. A limited number of tickets remain for each of the next two home games. Ticket prices range from $9-20 and may be purchased at the Bradley Ticket Office at Shea Stadium, the Carver Arena Box Office or online at www.BradleyBraves.com.