© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bradley men's basketball team set to take on UIC in MVC tournament

Bradley's mascot entertaining fans
Bradley University

The Bradley University men’s basketball team is in St. Louis this weekend, hoping to go a step beyond last year’s run in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

The third-seeded Braves will face No. 11 UIC in Friday's fourth Arch Madness quarterfinal, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at Enterprise Center.

Bradley enters the tournament with a 21-10 record after having a three-game winning streak snapped by a 74-66 loss to Drake in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

“I know my guys were not happy about how we performed and how we played in the last five minutes of the first half,” Bradley coach Brian Wardle said on a media conference call earlier this week. “We’ve got to use that to our advantage as a staff, to get our guys extra motivated to go into this tournament and have that chip on their shoulder.”

The Braves are led by two All-MVC first-team honorees in senior guard Duke Deen and fifth-year forward Malevy Leons, who was also named the league’s defensive player of the year for the second straight season.

A year ago, Bradley won the regular-season title with a 73-61 victory over the Bulldogs in the final game before a sold-out crowd at Carver Arena. But Drake got revenge with a 77-51 win against the Braves in the MVC title game.

“I don't know if we were as hungry as Drake last year after beating them for the championship,” said Wardle. “One thing that I learned is, winning the regular season title is great, but it's a whole – you’ve got to find that chip on your shoulder, that extra motivation to win at Arch Madness.”

In Thursday's last opening-round game, UIC claimed a 84-82 double overtime win over Southern Illinois. Bradley defeated the Flames by double-digit margins in both regular-season matchups, with an 18-point triumph in Chicago in January followed by a 12-point win at Carver Arena last month.

With a win, the Braves would play either second-seeded Drake or No. 10 Evansville in Saturday’s 5 p.m. semifinal. The Aces posted a 59-53 win over Illinois State on Thursday night.

The other quarterfinals pit No. 1 Indiana State against No. 9 Missouri State, and No. 4 Northern Iowa against No. 5 Belmont. The final is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.

Bradley is seeking its first Arch Madness championship since winning back-to-back titles in 2019-20.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.