When junior guard Jayden Hodgson checked in at the scorer’s table after the first media timeout, his number was listed incorrectly on the official score book.
This accident would be the first of three technical fouls and countless mental errors that plagued the Braves in an 85-73 loss at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on Wednesday night.
Bradley has now lost each of their true road games this season; both against Horizon League teams, the first coming two weeks ago at University Illinois at Chicago.
“We didn’t play smart,” head coach Brian Wardle said in an interview with WMBD. “Our decision-making and the use of our brains on the floor was very, very poor tonight. Countless, countless, countless mental mistakes by numerous players.”
In the first half, the Braves dug themselves a big hole out of the gate, falling behind 24-10. They responded quickly with a 15-0 run to take a 25-24 lead. The Jaguars then took them back their lead and headed to the locker room only down 44-38.
“We played well in spurts,” Wardle said. “We closed the first half out well. We just have to be a lot smarter and control our emotions a bit more on the floor.”
Bradley came out flat in the second half, going scoreless for the first five minutes. The Braves pulled within four points just under the nine-minute mark, but that was as close as they would get down the stretch.
Jaguars guard Camron Justice scored a game-high 27 points and was a perfect 15-15 at the free-throw line on the night. IUPUI shot 29-39 from the free-throw line on 28 fouls by the Braves over the course of the game.
“The free-throw difference is what cost the game, obviously,” Wardle said. “We started the game making silly fouls and it’s hard to win on the road. We started fouling too much early … and it didn’t matter after that. The game was being called one way and you’ve got to find a way to win and we just weren’t able to do that.”
Senior forward Luuk van Bree appeared to be the only Bradley player that wasn’t in a funk. He finished the night with a season-high 18 points and was 3-7 from behind the three-point line.
“It was huge to have [van Bree] aggressive on offense because we needed it,” Wardle said. “I mean we had four guys with two fouls in the first half. We were in foul trouble, so we played lineups tonight we haven’t played all year.”
The contributions that Bradley has gotten from junior center Koch Bar and sophomore forward Elijah Childs consistently this season were nowhere to be found as both struggled with foul trouble.
Bar finished with two points and no rebounds in a season-low 12 minutes. Childs established position in the post at times and continued to have success with the hook shot. He finished with nine points on 4 of 9 shooting and just six rebounds.
After the game Wardle admitted to poor decision making on his part when it came to substitutions throughout the game.
“I should have trusted my gut,” Wardle said. “I was late on every sub I wanted. I had a good pulse on certain guys and I should have gone with those guys and that’s on me. We have a smart team and that was inexcusable tonight.”
The Braves look to bounce back as they return home for their Mountain West–Missouri Valley Challenge test against New Mexico at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Carver Arena.
New Mexico enters the contest at 3-1 with wins over University of Texas at El Paso and Iona. Bradley will put their 4-0 home record on the line in what is considered the biggest matchup of Bradley’s non-conference slate.
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