PEORIA, Ill. -- Bradley shot 60.6 percent in the second half and used an 11-3 run midway through the period to pull away from defending Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion Northern Iowa and top the Panthers 75-61 Friday at Renaissance Coliseum. The contest was Bradley's ninth annual Pink Zone game, with the Braves helping raise $3,200 for the Memorial Chapter of Komen for the Cure.
Four Bradley players scored in double figures, paced by sophomore Kelsey Budd's (Prairie du Sauk, Wis./Sauk Prairie) game-high 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The win was BU's fourth consecutive home victory and snapped a six-game losing streak for the Braves in the series with UNI.
Playing without active career scoring leader Katie Yohn (Elgin, Ill./St. Edward), who missed the game due to injury, Bradley (14-12 overall, 5-9 MVC) struggled to find rhythm on the offensive end in the first half, but still held a four-point lead at the break.
Bradley took a 15-9 advantage on a Budd runner in with 11:38 left in the first half, but the Braves were scoreless for a seven-minute stretch and UNI used a 9-0 run to go in front 18-15. Sophomore Catie O'Leary (Janesville, Wis./Parker/Wisconsin) helped highlight an 11-2 BU run with a layup and three-pointer to help Bradley go back in front 28-22 and the Braves held a 28-24 lead at the half.
Northern Iowa (15-10 overall, 8-6 MVC) pulled within one at 34-33 with 15:35 to go and trailed 45-41 nearing the midway point of the second half, when the Braves made their decisive run.
Freshman Shronda Butts (Des Moines, Iowa/East) helped key the 11-3 spurt which put BU in front 56-44 with nine minutes to go, converting a three-point play and dishing out three of her team-high five assists during the stretch. Senior Leah Kassing (Mt. Sterling, Ill./Brown County) scored four of her 14 second-half points to help Bradley take control.
The Panthers answered with a hoop on the next possession to pull within 10 (56-46), before Butts made a pair of free throws and assisted a pair of Bradley hoops to help the Braves extend the lead to 14 points (62-48) nearing the six-minute mark. UNI got no closer than 10 points the remainder of the contest.
Northern Iowa entered the game averaging 12.4 turnovers in Missouri Valley Conference play, but Bradley forced 19 UNI turnovers to go along with a 44-30 advantage in points in the paint.
Budd scored a game-high 22 points on 10-for-15 from the floor and also had six rebounds, four assists, blocks and three steals in 38 minutes. Kassing was 7-of-12 from the field in the second half and finished with 18 points, five boards and three steals.
Butts was the only Bradley player to go to the free throw line, making 10-of-11 attempts and collected 12 points, five assists and two steals in the second half. She finished with her highest point total since scoring a season-high 18 points in the win against Iowa on Dec. 17. O'Leary joined the trio in double figures, adding 11 points and four assists.
Katelyn Oney led UNI in scoring with 14 points, while Brooke Brown added 12 points and Rachel Madrigal tallied 11 points to go with a team-best six rebounds for the Panthers.
Bradley continues a three-game home stand next Friday, hosting Drake in a 6 p.m. game at Renaissance Coliseum.