Braves Win Back-To-Back MVC Championships
St. Louis – For the second year in a row, the Bradley men's basketball team is coming home as the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Champions, defeating Valparaiso, 80-66, on Sunday afternoon in the Arch Madness finals for its fourth title in school history. The Braves now earn an NCAA Tournament bid in consecutive years for the first time since 1954 and 1955 with a 23-11 overall record.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player Darrell Brown led the Braves with 21 points and nine assists in the winning effort. The senior played his best with the season on the line as Brown averaged 21.7 points and 7.0 assists during the team's three-game run in St. Louis – shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Junior Elijah Childs joined Brown on the All-Tournament Team after collecting 17 points and eight rebounds in the victory. Last year's Most Outstanding Player, Childs averaged 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as Bradley repeated as conference champions.
Overall, five Braves scored in double figures in Sunday's championship. Sophomore Ja'Shon Henry tallied 16 points, making 7-of-9 field goals, while senior Nate Kennell added 14 points and freshman Ville Tahvanainen chipped in 10.
The Braves started the game strong and quickly raced to an eight-point lead less than four minutes into the contest, 12-4. Valparaiso, however, started to make its shots and got hot from 3-point range to close the gap. The Crusaders finally pulled even at 26 with just over seven minutes remaining before taking its first lead on the final basket of the opening period, 38-36
Valparaiso extended its advantage to as many as six points, 48-42, before a championship-defining run gave the victory to Bradley. The Braves outscored the Crusaders, 24-5, over the next 11 minutes for a commanding 13-point lead, 66-53, with just three minutes remaining. Bradley forced the Crusaders to miss 11-straight shots from the field to go with four turnovers, while BU made 11-of-17 field goals during the stretch (64.7 percent).
The Braves then sunk their free throws down the stretch for the 80-66 victory and the program's fourth postseason championship.
Bradley shot 48.3 percent in the winning effort, making 8-of-17 from 3-point range. The Braves also held the Crusaders to 40.7 percent, including a 31.0 percent clip in the second half.
The Braves now await their NCAA Tournament destination. The selection show is next Sunday (March 15) at 5 p.m. on CBS.
Game Notes: Bradley also claimed Missouri Valley Tournament titles in 1980, 1988 and 2019 … The Braves earned their 10th bid to the NCAA Tournament, joining the 1950, 1954, 1955, 1980, 1986, 1988, 1996, 2006 and 2019 teams … Bradley is now 4-4 all-time in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship game … The Braves are the ninth team to defend their conference title and first since Northern Iowa in 2016 … Bradley reached 23 wins for the first time since the 1993-94 campaign … The Braves scored 70-plus points in back-to-back MVC Tournament games for the first time since 1995, while winning back-to-back games by double digits for the first time since 1988 … With four 3-pointers, Brown moved into a tie for fourth place in school history with 225 made triples, matching Andrew Warren and passing Phillip Gilbert.
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