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Turnaround time for Braves

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TYSHON PICKETT ’14 was named to the league’s All-Newcomer Team. Photo by Bob Hunt.

WALT LEMON JR. ’14 goes for two of his career-high 27 points in Bradley’s 83-77 home victory over Illinois State. It marked the first time in eight games that Bradley had beaten the Redbirds. Photo by Duane Zehr.

With two Bradley players joining the career 1,000-point club, the men’s basketball team improved its season victory total for the first time in seven years, joining the ranks of the nation’s top turnaround teams. The regular season ended with an 81-66 loss to Drake in the opener of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Bradley finished tied for seventh in the MVC with a 7-11 record.

Bradley accepted an invitation to the 32-team CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament, beating the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay 75-69 in the first round at home on March 20. In the second round, Bradley defeated Tulane 77-72, also at Renaissance Coliseum. Tulane was the last Bradley opponent at Robertson Memorial Field House in 1982. Bradley was knocked out of the tournament with a 90-77 quarterfinal loss to MVC rival Northern Iowa.

After going 7-25 in the 2011–12 season, Bradley finished the regular season 16-16 overall. The improvement of nine victories was tied for the ninth-best turnaround in the nation going into postseason play.

“We’ve gone from being irrelevant to being a team that is hard to beat,” said coach Geno Ford, who added that improving performance at Carver Arena and better team tenacity were goals this season. “I think both of those things have been accomplished. I feel that our team has done a good job coming close to reaching their maximum potential.”

The team also improved its MVC record, finishing 7-11 in the league. That is a five-victory improvement over 2011–12. The team won more conference games this season than in the past two years combined. Ford noted that of the four losses at home, three were to teams ranked in the Top 25 during the season.

“Our players have tasted success this season,” Ford explained. “It enables them to have more confidence in themselves and our program for next year. We’ve accomplished some tangible results this year. I do think there’s cause for excitement around our program.”

DYRICUS SIMMS-EDWARDS ’13 was named Defensive Player of the Year by the MVC. Photo by Bob Hunt.

Career accomplishments 

Senior guard DYRICUS SIMMS-EDWARDS ’13 and junior guard WALT LEMON JR. ’14 became the 45th and 46th Bradley players to score 1,000 points in their careers.

Simms-Edwards scored his 1,000th career point January 9 against Indiana State. Lemon scored his at Carver Arena on February 16, also against the Sycamores. Visit bradley.edu/go/ht-scoringleaders to find out who else is in the 1,000-point club.

Lemon had another on-court accomplishment this season. His last-second, running, banked, three-point shot that beat Missouri State in January was nominated for the GEICO Play of the Year. After winning the weekly competition, the spectacular play advanced to the finals. Determined by Internet voting, the best play will be announced April 6. Visit facebook.com/BestofCollegeBasketball for an update on the contest.

Conference recognition

Honors continued to pile up for Lemon and Simms-Edwards, along with teammates TYSHON PICKETT ’14 and JAKE EASTMAN ’13.

Simms-Edwards became the fourth Bradley player named MVC Defensive Player of the Year. He set a single-season school record and was tied for seventh nationally with 84 steals in the regular season, according to ESPN. Lemon was selected second-team all-MVC and joined Simms-Edwards on the All-Defense Team. The two also were voted to the MVC Most-Improved Team.

“Walt Lemon emerged as an all-conference caliber player,” Ford said. He led Bradley in scoring, free throws, assists, and playing time. Lemon also joined HERSEY HAWKINS ’88 as the only MVC players to score 500 points, get 100 rebounds, have 100 assists, and make 70 steals in a season.

Simms-Edwards and Lemon combined for an MVC single-season record of 157 steals while the team set a school record with 308 steals through the CIT’s first round.

Pickett, the team’s leading rebounder, was named to the league’s All-Newcomer Team.

Lemon and Eastman were named to the MVC Scholar-Athlete Team. The two also have been nominated for the I-AAA Athletic Directors’ Association Scholar-Athlete Team.

– Bob Grimson ’81