Bradley University is going dancing in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
The Braves defeated Valparaiso 80-66 in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) men’s basketball tournament championship to punch their ticket back to the dance. This is the first time Bradley has won back-to-back MVC Tournaments and the first time it’s made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances since 1954 and 1955.
Bradley was led by the MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Darrell Brown, who scored 21 points and dished out nine assists in the victory over the Crusaders. Junior forward Elijah Childs joined Brown on the All-Tournament team and dropped 17 points on Valparaiso.
Valparaiso carried a 38-36 lead into halftime despite the Braves leading for more than 15 minutes of the opening period. The Crusaders couldn’t build much separation from Bradley, and the Braves regained the lead with 8:57 remaining in the half. Bradley wouldn’t relinquish its lead, building it up to as much as 14 points in the final minutes.
For the second straight game, Bradley had five players score in double figures. Senior guard Nate Kennell followed Brown and Childs with 14 points. Off the bench, sophomore forward Ja’Shon Henry put up 16 points and first-year guard Ville Tahvanainen had 10.
Javon Freeman-Liberty scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the losing effort for the Crusaders. Freeman-Liberty and Valparaiso forward John Kiser we’re both named to the All-Tournament team.
Earlier in the tournament, Valparaiso made history by becoming the second No. 7 seed in the history of Arch Madness to defeat a No. 2 seed when the Crusaders upset Loyola March 6.
The Braves will await their NCAA Tournament seeding, which will be announced during Selection Sunday March 15 at 5 p.m. on CBS.