NORMAL - When the shots went astray in the second half, Illinois State's basketball hopes faded away Saturday at Redbird Arena.
The Redbirds, who shot an uncharacteristic 46 percent from the field in the first half, including 64 percent from 3-point range on 11 attempts, hit a dry spell in the second half and dropped a 71-59 Missouri Valley Conference decision to Bradley before 8,388 people.
"You have to give Illinois State credit because they made shots," said Bradley coach Jim Les of ISU's first-half shooting.
"They shot a percentage I wasn't sure they were capable of coming in looking at all the numbers."
The Redbirds entered the game ranked last in the league in field goal percentage (41.0) and in 3-point field goal percentage (31.1).
They finished the game making 39.6 percent of their shots as their record dropped to 8-15 overall and 3-12 in the conference.
"We adjusted the way we were playing some of their sets because they were knocking in shots. Personnel-wise, we made some adjustments," added Les, whose team improved to 14-9 overall and 8-7 in the Valley.
"And I told them I believed in the law of averages. I told them to hang in there and not to drop their heads. They made some shots where we left them open and they made some tough shots.
We just needed to stay after it and focus on defense."
ISU, which led 36-33 at halftime as Levi Dyer scored 12 of his career-high 16 points by making 4 of 6 from 3-point range, made only 3 of its first 11 shots in the second half.
Still, the game was tied at 44 with 12:26 remaining.
Lawrence Wright then made a free throw to give Bradley the lead for good at 45-44 with 11:10 to go. His free throw started the Braves on a 12-3 run that produced a 56-47 cushion.
Marcellus Sommerville scored six of the Braves' points on back-to-back baskets. The shot of the day may have been his fade-away, 3-pointer from deep in the right corner.
He followed that basket with another one over Greg Dilligard off a spinning move in the lane. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw.
ISU managed to cut the deficit to 56-52 at the 6:33 mark on Dyer's fifth 3-pointer, but that was as close the Redbirds would get as Bradley made 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch.
Sommerville was among three Bradley players to score in double figures with 18 points. He had 15 in the second half and ended with his first double-double of the year with 11 rebounds. Seven-footer Patrick O'Bryant also had a double-double with game-highs of 23 points and 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end.
He scored 17 points in the first half and handled eight rebounds. Point guard Daniel Ruffin had 16 points and five assists.
"Show me a 5 and 4 like O'Bryant and Sommerville," said ISU coach Porter Moser. "Look at those numbers " 41 points, 24 rebounds " that's production, man. I don't know if there is a 4 and 5 in the country like that. And Ruffin dominated us at the point."
Bradley started the game with a 18-5 surge in the first six minutes, but ISU (as it has all season) battled back and finally tied the game at 24 at the 7:12 mark on a Dyer 3-pointer. The Redbirds made six of their first seven shots from 3-point range.
Bradley got off to its fast start by pounding the ball inside to O'Bryant. He scored 10 of the Braves' first 16 points.
"Coach has been stressing to us all year to get the ball to Patrick inside," said Ruffin. "We've tried our best. Today it worked out and he did a lot of great things out there."
"That's a great game plan," acknowledged Moser. "He's a guy who when he gets those kind of touches he really finishes them. There were times we had three guys around him. He was dominant."
ISU took the lead for the first time on a pair of Neil Plank free throws with 5:34 remaining.
The lead changed sides twice before Ronnie Carlwell scored on a rebound basket. Plank followed with a basket off a pass from Nedu Onyeuku and Dyer drained another 3-pointer to give ISU its largest lead of the game at 33-27.
ISU limited Bradley to three field goals on its last 13 attempts of the first half. The Redbirds outscored the Braves, 28-15, over the final 14 minutes of the half.
Despite not shooting the ball as well in the second half, Moser looked at unforced turnovers as a key reason for the Redbirds' inability to hold the lead.
"I thought unforced turnovers hurt us in the second half more than our shots," said the ISU coach.
"We couldn't get out of the mud in the second half. We were walking. It was one turnover after another that were pretty much unforced."
Dyer was joined in double figures by Dilligard with 14, Plank with 13 and junior college transfer Roberto Fortes with a career-high 11.
Fortes didn't believe Bradley's defensive pressure was any different from the first half to the second.
"I don't think it was so much their defensive pressure," he said. "We just weren't knocking down our shots."
The victory was only the second in the last 18 road games in Valley play for Bradley.
"Our problem on the road has been finishing games and they took a giant step tonight and did that," said Les, whose team made 24 of 27 free throws and owned a 44-26 rebounding edge, including a 14-4 advantage on the offensive boards. ISU was 8 of 11 from the charity stripe.
ISU returns to action Tuesday with a 7:05 p.m. league game against Drake at Redbird Arena.