Covering the Land of Lincoln

Evansville loses by 45 to Bradley

The University of Evansville men’s basketball team put together a beautiful sequence against Bradley in the first half. Three quick passes carved the Braves’ defense apart before it lands in Gage Bobe’s hands on the 3-point line at the top of the key.

Nothing but net for a fitting end to a beautiful play.

Unfortunately for the Purple Aces, that was just about the only positive from a historically poor night.

UE lost 91-46 in Peoria, Illinois, on Wednesday. The 45-point beating is the fifth-largest loss in program history — the third to occur since the 2017-18 season — harkening back to the size of the job first-year coach David Ragland and his staff have ahead of them. After positive news of landing ESPN four-star recruit Chuck Bailey III’s commitment on Monday, Bradley brought the Aces back to reality.

There must be something about Carver Arena that’s difficult for opponents. The Aces’ last three games there have been losses by 31, 32 and now 45 points, respectively. Bradley is also 9-0 on his home court this season.

For most of the second half, UE (4-14, 0-7 Missouri Valley Conference) had only scored one field goal. Through the first 15 minutes after halftime, the Aces scored just five points before ultimately making three more shots once Bradley coach Brian Wardle pulled his first and second string.

The Aces were outscored 45-16 in the second half.

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“Gotta have more resistance defensively,” coach David Ragland said on his postgame radio show. “I thought they got some good, clean looks and some feel-good shots in the first half and that led to whatever you wanna call the second half.”

Yes, Bradley (12-6, 5-2 MVC) is a good team and one of the league favorites. But that is no consolation for UE. And yes, the Aces were shorthanded with Sekou Kalle and Gabe Spinelli missing the game with injuries. Those two alone don’t make up a 45-point deficit, though.

A semi-competitive first half made way for, in Ragland’s words, “whatever you wanna call the second half.” The Aces never led and only tied the game once after it started.

Preston Phillips looks around a Bradley defender during the Aces' 91-46 loss on Wednesday in Peoria, Illinois.

“Once you have taken losses the way we have, the amount of losses we have — back-to-back-to-back — it makes it tough. You do start to think, when that run happens, like, ‘Oh, here we go,’” Ragland said. “We just have to have a sense of belief, a sense of fight, sticktoitiveness to change it. Change the results.

“It’s us. It’s us in the room, it’s us in the locker room. We gotta commit to it, gotta do it. There’s no running from it.”

UE was second-best in every category aside from free-throw percentage. Here’s a statistical look at the debacle in Peoria:

  • Field goal percentage: Bradley: 54%, UE 34%
  • 3-point percentage: Bradley: 50%, UE 25%
  • Free throw percentage: UE 76%, Bradley 52%
  • Rebounds: Bradley 40, UE 25
  • Turnovers: Bradley 6, UE 18
  • Assists: Bradley 19, UE 6

The Aces have a short turnaround before Saturday’s clash of the MVC bottomfeeders against Valparaiso, which is also 0-7 in league play. UE’s response to the previous two losses, a heartbreaker to Illinois State and the thorough beating from Bradley, could speak volumes about the rest of the season.

Wednesday’s outcome was one to forget, with the film sessions likely to make for an unpleasant viewing experience. Yet, at least there was one nice play to look back on. Other than that, it was “whatever you wanna call the second half.”

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