The Bradley Men’s Basketball had to work through some frustration after being trailed by Belmont by three points.
Unfortunately for Illinois-Chicago (UIC), they fell victim to a 79-45 thrashing (10-5, 3-1 MVC) from the Braves at Carver Arena on Saturday. Junior forward Lienk Mast had a career-high 17 rebounds.
“Honestly, I didn’t notice it during the game,” Mast said. “You grab whatever comes out of the rim and you keep doing it. Essentially the numbers keep going up. It’s not about being in a match, anything off the rim should be yours.” and that’s always been my way of thinking.”
Bradley’s defense held the Flames (9-6, 1-3 MVC) to less than 30% and pulled off an MVC-leading 15-game winning streak at home. Mast’s 11-point, 10-rebound effort at halftime gave the home team a huge lead, and they never looked back.
“thought [Rienk] We got really aggressive,” head coach Brian Wardle said. “And you can see that we had better results around the rim in this game.
After the UIC got on the board first, Bradley took the first lead with only layups from sophomore guards Connor Hickman and Zech Montgomery. A Ja’Shon Henry 10-foot finish with 13:31 remaining started a 31-7 Bradley run to end the half.
“It starts with practice,” said fifth grader Henry. “I feel like we practiced well for this match. I thought the whole team was really focused and ready.”
UIC shot just 4-28 from the field in the first period. This includes 1-19 on the last 19 shots and 0-12 after crossing the arc. The Braves started 0–5 off his threes, but until junior guard Duke Dean returned to shooting form with Trey to make him 21–7 at the 7:19 mark. Before that, Bradley’s 18 of his points were all in the paint.
The Flames were finally in double figures with 4:57 left thanks to Cameron Fens and -1, but two minutes later Mast and Hickman back-to-back made it 34-11 Braves. The home side finished the half booming, drawing an alley-oop on Henry from an inbounds play to give the locker room a 39-13 lead.
Mast said of the first-half lead, “That makes the game so much easier. ‘It comes mainly from defense and then transition offense.'”
The start of the second half was a back-and-forth affair as UIC had already topped their first-half total with 11:17 remaining. They didn’t take his first three of the frame until halfway.
“When you get big in the half, you tell the team that the only way they can come back is literally at the 3-point line,” Wardle said. I wanted to, so I thought I did well.”
Dean hit another game-high four 3-pointers at 4:49 and hit another shot from downtown just 30 seconds later to give the Braves a 77-36 lead.
In the end, the Braves won another conference with five double-digit scorers.
“I liked how he came out with a chip on his shoulder after the last game,” Wardle said. “I know they were frustrated for giving one, so they came out. Defensively we really stuck to our game plan, defended with a lot of discipline and had great discussions. It was truly a team effort.”
Dean scored a team-high 14 points, just ahead of Mast and Henry’s 13 points. Bradley shot more than 50% of his shots from the field. This has been key to many victories this season.
“We have to keep getting better, learning and growing together,” said Wardle. “We’ll see how this plays out, but I like where I am.”
The Braves will be on the road again on January 4th to face their third straight MVC rookie in Murray.