Paul Suellentrop’s MVC report

02/12/2014 5:35 PM

02/12/2014 5:35 PM

They are who we expected

Home teams win around 65 to 70 percent of the time, which leaves road coaches spending about 65 to 70 percent of their time on a solution.

Bradley coach Geno Ford did that and more as his team went 0-10 away from home this season and compiled a 2-32 MVC road record.

What to do? Talk about it? Ignore it? Emphasize it? De-emphasize it?

“Our streak was long enough, losing on the road, we were able to try about 15 different things and none of them actually worked,” Ford said.

The Braves finally got on a bus happy after their Feb. 6 win at Loyola. The 63-54 victory is a key piece of the team’s turnaround. It took until February, but Bradley is looking more like the team picked fifth in the Valley and less like a major disappointment. After Wednesday’s 68-62 loss to Indiana State, the Braves have won five of eight games.

The Braves are playing better defense and using a zone to cut down on foul trouble. Bradley’s turnover margin in MVC games is plus-1.50, up a full turnover from all games. Guard Walt Lemon Jr. is letting his teammates share the offensive burden. Ford shortened his rotation to keep his best players in the game.

“We’ve shot the ball better,” he said. “While we still have more turnovers than assists, that gap has really shrunk. We’ve been able to hold ourselves to about 11 turnovers a game, which has allowed us a couple extra possessions.”

Lemon and senior forward Tyshon Pickett continue to lead the team. Freshman center Xzavier Taylor has started the last 11 games and shows good production when he can avoid fouls. On Sunday, he played 25 minutes and scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a win over Evansville, both season highs.

On Tuesday, Ford found Taylor alone in the gym working on his lefty jump-hook after practice.

“Extra film, extra workouts,” Ford said. “He is in the gym all the time. I’ve never had a post guy who was a gym rat. That’s why he’s going to be good, he cares.”

Fast breaks

•  Wichita State is the 25th team to go 26-0, following Tuesday’s win over Southern Illinois. The Shockers play at Evansville on Sunday trying to join a list of 20 teams at 27-0. Illinois is the last team to reach that spot, going 29-0 during the 2004-05 season.
•  Illinois State freshman center Reggie Lynch will play the rest of the season with a mask to protect his broken nose. He broke the nose on Jan. 29 against Bradley and continued to play before having surgery on Friday.

“Hopefully, it becomes more comfortable,” Redbirds coach Dan Muller said. “It certainly does affect his vision.”

•  Evansville is a freshman-sophomore dominated team, so turnovers are a problem without an experienced hand running the team. Entering Wednesday’s game, the Aces surrendered an average of 6.0 points off turnovers more than their opponents.

In their words

“It’s frustrating. The players feel it. We feel it. We went through this when Colt (Ryan), Ned (Cox) and Troy (Taylor) were freshmen. We’re just trying to draw from that experience. The main thing is, to just stay the course, continue to work, continue to get better.” — Evansville coach Marty Simmons on his team’s four-game losing streak entering Wednesday’s game against Illinois State.

One to watch

Southern Illinois at Indiana State, 12:05 p.m. Saturday — The Salukis must recover quickly from Tuesday’s loss to Wichita State if they want to stay in the upper half of the MVC. The second-place Sycamores will remember their 79-60 loss at SIU on Jan. 29 in which they were outrebounded 42-29.

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