The Bradley Braves are a very young team, and it showed early on in the first half. Southern Illinois is the more veteran-laden team, but this did not show at all in the first half. It was sloppy, but the veterans eventually got it done against the youngsters.
The Braves committed two early offensive fouls away from the ball within the first five minutes of the half. This did not come as a surprise as this is a team with ten freshman on its roster. The Salukis seemed very rushed on the offensive end of the floor. Anthony Beane, who leads Southern Illinois in scoring with 20.4 ppg, was forcing shots and was not able to find his stroke in the first half at all. Beane ended up scoreless in the opening, but he did have four assists. With Beane unable to find his stroke the Salukis' offense became stagnant, but Sean O'Brien came up big for the Salukis topping his game average with 13 points in the first half alone. O'Brien was a post presence in the first half by dominating the Braves on the block. The Braves were trailing most of the half, but they were able to put a run together at the end of the half to go into the break down by only two points. Donte Thomas lead the Braves with 8 points on 3-4 shooting from the field.
The second half of this game this game was very similar to the first half with neither team truly finding any rhythm. The Southern Illinois Salukis were not able to completely pull away from Bradley. When it seemed that Southern were going to shut the door forcing two straight turnovers, they were not able to capitalize. The Braves kept clawing back and cut the Salukis' lead down to two, but they were unable to sustain this pressure.The Salukis' veterans were able to put it all together late in the second half lepping the Braves at bay.
While Anthony Beane was not able to find his game completely, Sean O'Brien was the steady force the Saluki's needed to put the Braves down for the count adding 11 points in the second half finishing with a game high 24. O'Brien made one play that stood out and it was not any of the points he scored, but was him diving for a loose ball and having the sense to call a time out. Another Southern Illinois player who came up strong in the second half was Mike Rodriguez. He was all over the place on both ends of the court wearing down the Braves. The Salukis were able to take a double digit lead with about two plus minutes left and never looked back.
This game came down to the ability of the Southern Illinois veterans to make the plays, and the young Bradley Braves not having answers down the stretch. The Braves were impressive in the fight they showed to stay in this game, but the Salukis were just too much.
The Braves did show a lot of promise in this game and with how young they are may be a force to reckon with in the Missouri Valley Conference in the near future. For Southern Illinois, if they win out they will be the number two seed in the Missouri Valley Tournament.