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Bradley's quest for MVC men's hoops tournament title dashed

Bradley's mascot entertaining fans
Bradley University

The Bradley men's basketball team missed its chance to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship for the third time in five years on Sunday, suffering a lopsided loss in the title game.

A week after beating Drake in Peoria for the MVC regular-season crown, the top-seeded Braves absorbed a 77-51 loss to the No. 2 Bulldogs in the Arch Madness final at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Bradley saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end, falling to 25-9 overall. The Braves are not expected to receive an at-large NCAA Tournament invitation, but as regular-season champs they’re guaranteed a spot in the NIT field.

The Braves only held the lead for 19 seconds – at 3-2 – as Drake surged to a 41-21 lead by halftime and extended the margin to a high point of 32 with less than two minutes remaining. Fifth-year senior guard Ja’Shon Henry had 10 points off the bench as Bradley’s only player scoring in double figures.

On Saturday, Bradley needed two clutch free throws from Malevy Leons with 6.2 seconds left to escape the semifinals with a 71-70 win over No. 5 Indiana State.

The Braves led by eight points with three minutes to play, but a 3-pointer by Courvoisier McCauley with 32 seconds left put the Sycamores up by one.

After Leons was fouled securing a critical offensive rebound, he made the tying and go-ahead free throws and McCauley missed a potential game-winning shot as time expired.

The Braves began their Arch Madness run with a 72-66 win over No. 8 Northern Iowa on Friday, with Rienk Mast totaling 30 points and nine rebounds to lead the effort.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.