PEORIA, Ill. - Bradley junior guard Andrew Warren (Indianapolis, Ind./Brebeuf Jesuit Prep) scored a game-high 15 points, all in the second half, and the Braves (13-12, 8-7 MVC) overwhelmed #18/19 Northern Iowa (22-3, 13-2 MVC) in the second half to earn their first-ever win against a nationally-ranked opponent at Carver Arena, 68-59, in Missouri Valley Conference action Saturday afternoon.
Bradley, which improved to 2-0 on the season against nationally-ranked opponents (the Braves beat then #20 Illinois, 72-68, Nov. 28 in Las Vegas), had not won a home game against a Top 25 team since dumping #8 Tulsa, 82-79 in overtime, Feb. 27, 1982 in the final regular-season home game at Robertson Memorial Fieldhouse. The Braves are now 1-8 against the Top 25 at Carver Arena, where they have played their home games since the start of the 1982-83 season. Bradley, also improved to 2-0 all-time against nationally-ranked UNI squads, having dealt the then #25 Panthers a 71-49 defeat Feb. 22, 2006 in the final regular-season game at the UNI-Dome.
Bradley never led in the first half and forged the final tie of the opening stanza, 11-11, when sophomore forward Taylor Brown scored in the paint with 10:27 remaining. The Panthers began to pull away and three times built a nine-point advantage, the last when Adam Koch scored on the interior for the final points of the period to give UNI a 32-23 lead at intermission.
Bradley stormed back to start the second half, however, and scored the first 11 points of the period. Senior guard Chris Roberts opened the scoring with a fastbreak layup and Warren followed with a transition 3-pointer for his first points of the night. After Warren scored again, senior guard Sam Maniscalco, who did not score from the field in the first half, scored the next four points to give the Braves their first lead, 34-32, with 14:48 remaining.
Following some back-and-forth play, Bradley broke the game's sixth tie with a 9-1 run to take control. Brown drained two free throws with 8:15 left for a 48-46 Braves advantage and Roberts finished off the surge with an old-fashioned 3-point play with 4:53 left for a 55-47 lead.
The Panthers managed to close the gap to four points, 55-51, with 3:12 remaining, but Roberts answered with a tough turnaround jumper on the baseline with 2:46 remaining and the Braves made 9-of-10 free throw attempts to hold off the Panthers, who still could claim the outright Valley regular-season title if Missouri State upsets the league's current second-place team, Wichita State, Sunday night.
After shooting just 36.0 percent (9-25) from the field in the first half, Bradley converted 56.5 percent (13-23) of its field goal attempts in a 45-point, second-half outburst. The Braves also turned up the defensive pressure in the second half after allowing UNI to shoot 44.8 percent (13-29) in the opening period. The Panthers made only 5-of-26 (.192) field goal attempts in the second half to finish the game at 32.7 percent. UNI made just 6-of-30 (.200) tries from 3-point range. The Panthers also came into the game ranked 12th nationally by averaging only 10.9 turnovers per game, but the Braves forced their visitors into 16 miscues and took advantage with a 13-4 margin in points off turnovers.
Roberts complimented Warren's scoring effort with 13 points, while Brown and sophomore center Will Egolf each chipped in with 12 points. UNI senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh led three Panthers in double-figures with 14 points, while center Jordan Eglseder and guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe each added 12.
Having climbed back into a fourth-place tie in the Valley standings with three league games remaining, Bradley will hit the road for a Tuesday night matchup at Indiana State (15-11, 7-8). Tuesday's 6:00 p.m. game will be televised in Central Illinois (channel 74) and Chicago (102) by Comcast. The Braves will then head back to Peoria for their final two home games, Feb. 20 versus Drexel in a non-conference tilt created through BracketBusters, and the Feb. 24 Senior Night contest against Wichita State. Both of the final two home games will tip at 7:05 p.m. from Carver Arena.