|’Birds fall to BU, first since 2009|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 30 January 2013 00:23|
In a game featuring what many people believe to be the biggest in-state rivals, Bradley and Illinois State, the Redbirds’ men’s basketball team fell to the Braves for the first time since 2009 in an 83-77 loss at Carver Arena in Peoria Tuesday evening.
It was another tale of a second half, defensive intensity short-coming for ISU — a theme that ISU head coach Dan Muller acknowledges as recurring — as the ’Birds gave up their 16-point lead from the first half and allowed Bradley to score 55 points on a 64 percent shooting effort in the second half.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Muller told WJBC Radio. “[Last night] was a reversion of some past defense in the second half.”
Additionally, 27 of the Braves’ points spawned from 23 Redbird turnovers, while another 27 came from Bradley’s Walt Lemon Jr. alone, whose offensive efforts resulted in a career-high.
“A lot of things cost our team [the game] tonight … Turnovers were a part of it, a lack of defensive discipline; we got up 16, they called a timeout, we came over and we were celebrating like we had just won a super bowl and from that point on we just relaxed. [Bradley] was completely aggressive from that point on in every aspect of the game, and when that happens you’re going to get beat.”
The Redbirds now sit on a 3-7 record in the Missouri Valley Conference and hold a 12-10 record overall.
ISU was led offensively by seniors Jackie Carmichael and John Wilkins with 16 points apiece, while Tyler Brown and Jon Ekey contributed 13 and 11 points, respectively. Wilkins also led the team in treys with a 4-for-5 effort beyond the arc.
However, Carmichael, coming off of a 24-point, 17-rebound double-double performance against Evansville, was limited to just three field goal attempts in the second half.
“We just had guys who got tentative to make passes … We just waited on ball screens because we didn’t want to throw it away, and we still did … we just didn’t do a good enough job on getting it to Jackie,” Muller said.
After a teeter-tottering start to the contest, the Redbirds built up a 25-9 lead — the largest margin of the game earned by either team — with 9:02 left in the first half thanks to threes from Wilkins, Ekey and Nick Zeisloft, and a one-handed alley-oop dunk from Carmichael.
But the Braves countered, snipping ISU’s lead down to 27-20 in less than four minutes with 5:35 left in the first half.
Another dunk from Carmichael and a trey from Wilkins helped the ’Birds to the 36-28 halftime advantage.
“When we go into the locker room we’re really confident and we’re really pumped up … I don’t know what’s going on,” Wilkins said.
BU opened the second period on an 11-3 run to knot the game at 39 with 17:04 left in the contest.
Brown then responded with his first points of the game after coming off the bench from an injury contracted earlier in the contest, scoring a trey to put ISU back up temporarily. However, four consecutive Bradley points put ISU behind for its first deficit of the night, 43-42, with 15:42 left on the clock.
“I’m really proud of [Brown] … He really fought through some pain I can promise you that. We have to go back and get his thumb x-rayed or [get an] MRI, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some significant damage, so we’ll just have to see what the doctors say and we’ll move forward from that,” Muller said.
The BU lead did not last long. Three consecutive treys from Wilkins and Bryant Allen put ISU back in the lead, 51-45, with 13:31 remaining. But, ISU could not hold on for the win as the Braves came back with vengeance to earn their first win against the Redbirds in eight meetings.
“We certainly credit them some, they average 11 steals-per-game for a reason, but a lot of that was our inability to just be strong with the ball,” Muller said.
“We’re going to go at it. We’re going to practice hard, we’re going to compete, we’re going to tell each other the truth and we’re going to be held accountable.”
The Redbirds will return home for a conference contest against Southern Illinois at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday at Redbird Arena.