Basketball (M)

Bradley Downs DePaul in Sweet Fashion, 78-58
Release: Sunday 11/11/2006 
by Bradley University

PEORIA, Ill. -- On a night that began with a pregame celebration of Bradley’s run to the 2006 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, the Braves (1-0) turned in an encore performance for a sold-out crowd of 11,080 Saturday night at Carver Arena, racing by DePaul (0-1), 78-58, in the season-opener for both teams.


Bradley junior guard Jeremy Crouch led a Bradley onslaught from behind the 3-point line, scoring a career-best 22 points, highlighted by a personal 6-for-9 effort from 3-point land.  As a team, the Braves set a Carver Arena record for the home side by draining 13 treys (in 25 attempts), topping the previous mark of 12 triples set versus Evansville Jan. 23, 1999.  Crouch’s effort was supported by junior guard Daniel Ruffin, a preseason Bob Cousy Award candidate, who drained 4-of-5 3-point attempts for his 12 points and also dished out a game-high seven assists.  Senior center Zach Andrews turned in a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and senior guard Will Franklin chipped in with 11 points.


DePaul senior guard Sammy Mejia led the Blue Demons with 18 points and sophomore forward Wilson Chandler added 12 points.  Junior forward Karron Clarke pulled down a team-high eight rebounds for DePaul.


Despite facing a much bigger opponent, Bradley started the game with a four-guard lineup -- Crouch, Franklin, Ruffin and senior J.J. Tauai -- with the 6-foot-8 Andrews the only Brave taller than 6-foot-5 in the starting lineup.  The Braves set the tone early, scoring the game’s first points on a Crouch 3-pointer from the right wing 30 seconds into the game.  Although DePaul would tie the game on three occassions, the Blue Demons never lead.


After a Mejia leaner pulled the Blue Demons into a 24-24 tie with 6:58 left in the half, Tauai drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6:15 left, igniting an 11-4 Bradley surge to end the half.


The teams matched each other basket-for-basket in the opening two minutes of the second half before the Braves broke the game open with a 15-3 burst in a span of just 2-minutes, 40-seconds.  Ruffin and Crouch hit back-to-back threes to start the rush, and after four straight points from Tauai, Ruffin hit another trey before Franklin finished off the outburst with two free throws for a 57-38 Bradley advantage with 15:24 left in the game.  DePaul got not closer than 15 points the rest of the way and Bradley was able to push the lead to as many as 25 down the stretch.


Despite the height disadvantage, Bradley outboarded DePaul 29-28.  The Braves also forced DePaul into 18 turnovers and 30.4 percent (7-23) shooting from 3-point range.


Saturday night’s crowd of 11,080 was the second-largest non-conference crowd in the 25-year history of Carver Arena and the sixth-largest home crowd overall in Bradley Basketball history.  Everyone in attendance received a Sweet 16 rally towel and a red Sweet 16 t-shirt to enhance the school’s first-ever “Red-Out” promotion.


Bradley, which has won 18 consecutive non-conference home games, will host NCAA Division II Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Wednesday night (7:05 p.m.) at Carver Arena, then will open the Chicago Invitational Challenge by hosting Illinois-Chicago Nov. 19.


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