WICHITA, Kan. -- Bradley senior guard Jeremy Crouch (Pekin, Ill./Pekin H.S.) scored a game-high 16 points and became the 42nd member of the school’s 1,000-Point Club, leading the Braves (11-10, 4-5 MVC) to a 63-54 Missouri Valley Conference road win versus Wichita State (8-12, 1-8 MVC) in front of 10,478 Saturday night at Charles Koch Arena.
The host Shockers scored the game’s first four points, but Bradley sophomore guard Andrew Warren (Indianapolis, Ind./Brebeuf Jesuit Prep) countered with back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite a 31-8 Bradley run in a span of 9-minutes, 30-seconds to break the game open. After Wichita State sliced its deficit to 14, 35-21, on a Phil Thomasson layup with 3:01 left in the half, Crouch hit a 3-pointer and capped Bradley’s 7-0 run to close the half with a layup with 24 seconds to go to give the Braves a game-high 21-point lead, 42-21, going into the break.
Crouch, who hit the 1,000-point mark with a 16-foot jumper with 15:31 left in the game, led three Braves in double-figures. Freshman guard Sam Maniscalco (Chicago, Ill./St. Patrick H.S.) added 12 points and Warren scored all 10 of his points in the first half. Wichita State senior forward P.J. Couisnard led the Shockers with 13 points, while Thomasson added 12 and guard Gal Mekel chipped in with 10.
The Braves used an efficient offensive attack and solid defense to break the game open in the first half. Bradley hit 16-of-28 (.571) field goal attempts in the opening 20 minutes, including 7-of-11 (.636) from 3-point range. On the defensive end, the Braves limited Wichita State to just 26.9 percent (7-26) shooting from the floor and limited the Shockers to four offensive rebounds. Bradley ended the game with a 33-30 rebounding advantage.
The large halftime cushion allowed the Braves to withstand a much colder shooting second half. Bradley made only 5-of-15 second-half field goal attempts and did not score a basket after David Collins sank a baseline jumper with 11:21 left in the game for a 54-34 lead. Wichita State embarked on a 12-0 run and closed to within single digits, 54-46, for the first time since midway through the first half when Couisnard buried a 3-pointer with 6:29 remaining.
Bradley milked nearly two minutes off the clock on its next possession, however, thanks to four straight Shocker fouls and eventually snapped the scoring drought when senior point guard Daniel Ruffin (Peoria, Ill./Central H.S.) made two free throws for a 56-46 Bradley lead with 4:20 remaining. Aided by six straight free throws from Crouch, the Braves built their lead back up to 15 points, 62-47, and coasted home for their third consecutive victory.
In his second game since returning from sports hernia surgery Dec. 28, Ruffin played 28 minutes off the bench and contributed eight points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal. He buried both of his 3-point shots, including a deep trey from in front of the Wichita State bench to give the Braves their first double-digit lead, 22-10, with 9:37 left in the first half.
The Braves will shoot for their fourth consecutive win Wednesday when they host Indiana State in a 7:05 p.m. Valley tilt at Carver Arena. Wednesday’s game will be Bradley’s first against first-year Sycamores coach Kevin McKenna, who lived in Peoria as a youth and attended Holy Family Catholic School before moving to the Chicago suburbs.