SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas --Bradley senior guards Daniel Ruffin (Peoria, Ill./Central H.S.) and Jeremy Crouch (Pekin, Ill./Pekin H.S.) put on a clinic against Iowa’s youthful backcourt, leading the Braves (4-1) to a 67-56 men’s basketball victory against the Hawkeyes (4-1) in the third round of the South Padre Island Invitational Friday night at the South Padre Island Convention Center.
Ruffin, who entered the game as the nation’s active career assists leader, stole the show with a career-best 24 points and game-highs of seven assists and a career-best tying five steals. Ruffin, who now owns 513 career steals, also set a career-high by making six of his 10 3-point field goal attempts. Crouch added 14 points and four assists for the Braves, as the senior duo combined for 38 points and 11 assists and just two turnovers, while each playing 36 minutes. Bradley also received a boost from junior forward Theron Wilson (Topeka, Kan./Highland Park H.S.) who contributed eight points, 11 rebounds, three steals, two assists and a blocked shot in his 27 minutes.
Iowa senior guard Justin Johnson scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the first half. The Hawkeyes also received 12 points and eight rebounds from senior forward Kurt Looby and 11 points off the bench from freshman guard Jake Kelly.
Trailing 15-8 with 13:45 left in the first half following consecutive Looby baskets, Bradley punched the Hawkeyes with a 19-2 run to take control of the game. Crouch started the run with a short jumper in the lane and junior center David Collins scored six points at the front end of the outburst, giving the Braves an 18-17 lead with 10:26 left in the half. A Ruffin 3-pointer, steal and transition basket put Bradley up 27-17 with 5:35 left in the half.
Iowa appeared to be taking the momentum into halftime, however, by pulling to within 34-30 with less then a minute to go, but Crouch tipped an offensive rebound back to Andrew Warren, who drained a 25-footer at the halftime buzzer to give the Braves a 37-30 lead at the break.
Iowa got no closer than five points the rest of the way as Bradley’s senior guards had the answer for each Hawkeye run. After Kelly hit a jumper to pull Iowa within 49-44 with 8:46 left, Ruffin immediately answered with a deep 3-pointer to push the advantage back to 52-44. And when Kelly drained a 3-pointer to pull the Hawkeyes within 59-53 with 3:33 left, Crouch and Ruffin countered with two more Bradley 3-pointers to stretch the lead back to 65-53 with 2:02 remaining.
Iowa had not allowed any of its first four opponents to score 50 points this season, but the Braves eclipsed the mark with Ruffin’s 3-pointer with 8:25 left. The Braves also won the rebounding fight for the fifth consecutive game, 33-31, and cleaned up one area of weakness in the early going by committing just 13 turnovers. Conversely, the Braves forced 17 Iowa turnovers, including 10 from steals.
Having already dispatched of Iowa State, 65-56, in the second game of the season, Bradley head coach Jim Les improved to 11-4 in his career against teams associated with the six primary BCS football leagues. The win against the Hawkeyes also was Bradley’s first against a Big Ten Conference opponent away from home since the Braves dropped Purdue in the championship game of the 1982 National Invitation Tournament, 67-58, March 24, 1982 at Madison Square Garden, ending a streak of 10 straight losses to the Big Ten outside Carver Arena.
The Braves will conclude play in the South Padre Island Invitational in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against the winner of Friday’s third-round finale between Utah State and Vanderbilt. Video streams from Saturday’s action will be available for $7.95 by visiting www.southpadreinvitationaltv.com.