Bradley's Luqman Lundy: "For 30 minutes, we had them."
Dargan Southard, email@example.com
DES MOINES, Iowa – The frustration and despair that usually engages a losing cupboard was not Thursday afternoon. Bradley's efforts did not guarantee that.
Although Braves could not be the last 15 seed to overthrow a No. 2, Bradley Power State Michigan gave a state fight. Braves' 76-65 losses at Wells Fargo Arena had lots of March's magic elements.
"For 30 minutes we had them," said Bradley senior Luqman Lundy. "I'm proud of my team for that."
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Michigan State is entered with 10 victories in their last 11 games, including three to win Big Ten tournament in Chicago. Bradley would not have made the NCAAs without a victory in the Missouri Valley Conference's Arch Madness tournament, after almost avoiding playing on the tournament's first day.
None of that applied to Thursday.
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Michigan State Defender Xavier Tillman defends Bradley Luuk van Bree in the second half of MSU's 76-65 victory over Bradley in the NCAA tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Michigan State could not shake Bradley early, and Braves began to believe. Not only was there a solid Bradley fan base from Peoria, Illinois – only about four hours east of Des Moines, but others at Wells Fargo Arena quickly jumped on the buzz.
But Bradley couldn't quite do it across the finish line. A seven-point deficit was a 55-54 lead on Elijah Childs jumper with 7:02 remaining. But Braves sputtered from there.
A 9-0 spartan race followed as Bradley went cold for almost five minutes. Michigan State sidestepped disaster with a strong finish on the free-throw line, part of a 25 to 26 goal line.
"We just had that all the time," said Bradley junior Nate Kennell. "We just showed our toughness and our heart for 35 minutes of the game. They just carried us down the line."
Bradley's 35-34 half-time advantage had Michigan State supporters who speculated. Michigan STATE has won a national title back in 2000, but the Spartans' latest tournament history includes a first roundabout for the 15-seeded Middle Tennessee State back in 2016, the last 15/2 sad. Spartans Kyle Ahrens, Kenny Goins and Matt McQuaid were in the 2016 team.
At times Thursday, a similar energy resembled Des Moines. Bradley tried his best to turn it on, which led to as much as six in a seesawing first half. Braves hit nine 3-pointers and had three-digit scoring.
"I believe in the six-minute mark, everyone thought," Oh, Bradley could win this game. Braves coach Brian Wardle said. "I thought we made many people believers, and I thought we made Bradley proud of our efforts and our toughness and competitiveness."
"I wish we could have pulled it off, but they can see themselves in the mirror tonight and say," No regrets. "They have no regrets after this show."
Bradley started his March Madness race in the national doghouse, after its stubborn relationship with the local media spilled into the public. It ended with a bold staff of March prestige.
"We'll be right back here," said Kennell. "We want another shot on a team like Michigan State. We don't stop right here. Climbing will continue."
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.