Peoria, Ill. – Throughout the course of any basketball season, there will be losses that you just turn the page on and forget. They’re usually written off as an unfortunate confluence of events. A quick turnaround between games, the strength of an opponent and injuries can all contribute. Rarely though do they occur in the season opener. That’s what happened to IUPUI Saturday afternoon when they took on Bradley. The Braves led almost the entire game and held IUPUI to their lowest point total in over a season while cruising to a 68-53 win.
There’s some room for leniency as the Jaguars graduated their top three scorers from a year ago. Still, the starters were lackluster and the bench was invisible. Ron Patterson led the team in scoring with 16 points. He hit four of eight three-point attempts, but shot just one-for-six inside the arc. Evan Hall scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but his 44 percent shooting was a team high. T.J. Henderson scored 10 points on 10 shots and Jaylen Minnett managed just five points on seven shots. Despite getting decent minutes out of Maurice Kirby and Elyjah Goss, the bench combined to shoot just one-for-seven for five points.
The Jaguars started the game with the smallest glimmer of hope. They forced turnovers on both of Bradley’s first two possessions and Patterson hit a 3-pointer to go up 3-0. Donte Thomas immediately answered with a jumper. After a miss from Henderson on the other end, Thomas drew a foul and hit both free throws to put Bradley up 4-3. 30 seconds later after trading baskets, Bradley took the lead for good on a jumper from Darrell Brown.
Thomas finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Bradley. The real star though for Bradley was Nate Kennell. He came off the bench to score 19 points including five-for-nine shooting from long range.
For IUPUI, an 0-1 start isn’t a huge deal. They just 28 percent from the floor and finished with 53 points, both of which would have been season lows a year ago. During IUPUI Head Coach Jason Gardner‘s tenure, the first half of the season has always been an opportunity to improve and prepare for conference play. Given the abysmal offensive performance and the turnover in personnel from last year, the Jaguars will be quick to move on to their next game. Luckily for them there’s just one day off before hosting the home opener. The Jaguars will take on Anderson at Indiana Farmers Coliseum Monday at 7 p.m.