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Missouri State Bears vs. Bradley Braves - 2/1/14

Bradley Braves (9-13) at Missouri State Bears (14-7)

College Basketball: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm (JQH Arena)

The Line: Missouri State Bears -8 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: None

The Missouri State Bears look to jump ahead of Bradley in the MVC standings as the two teams start the 2nd half of the league season with a game at the JQH Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Missouri State has won 2 of 3 games but lost at Drake in the last conference game. This team plays extremely well at home (10-1) with their only loss against #4 Wichita St. (72-69 in OT), but that will only get them so far as they are missing 2 of their top players, who are out for the remainder of the season.  Senior Jarmar Gulley had a down game (12 points and 1 rebound) against Drake compared to the massive numbers he had been putting up for the Bears. Austin Ruder has been picking up the slack as he led all scorers with 21 points to boost his season average to 9 ppg.  As a team, they are shooting 44% from the field and 37% on 3-pointers and have a rebounding margin of -1.8. Third year head coach Paul Lusk is trying to find combinations of this team without 2 huge scoring threats.

Missouri State Bears vs. Bradley Braves - 2/1/14

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile Bradley enters the game having won 3 of 4 and playing with a good deal of confidence. And they’ll need that to play a factor, as well as execute on both ends, to pick up their first road win of the season. In their last game, the Braves handled their rivals – Illinois State – with a 19-point win. Walt Lemon Jr. helped a 2nd half surge in which they outscored the Redbirds 21-3 to break open a tight game. A huge addition to this team has been junior transfer Auston Barnes, who consistently scores 8-10 points a game and averages 6.1 rebounds. He brings a certain toughness that Bradley has been lacking in recent seasons. Another tough guy down low is senior Tyshon Pickett (11.7 points / 7 rebounds per game). Emerging freshman Xzavier Taylor has added a spark although his numbers don’t show it, but he has a promising future for BU. The trouble for Bradley has been scoring at 42.9%. Their three point average has steadily been climbing and is 31.4%. They are a pretty solid rebounding team, which has been a nice improvement from the past 3-4 seasons in which they gave up way too many second-chance points. Geno Ford is also in his 3rd full season at the helm and the expectations continue to rise after coming over from Kent State, where he orchestrated very successful teams, but has struggled in the tougher Missouri Valley Conference.

I know the difference between records (0-7 for Bradley on the road; 10-1 for Missouri St. at home) is vast, but this is a battle for 4th place in the Valley and these teams are pretty close in talent. Recent history has greatly favored the Bears, but Bradley has been relatively close even in years when the Missouri St. had more talent. The Bears win, but Bradley rides on their confidence and their hunger for a road win keeps them close. I’ll take Bradley and the points.

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