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Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Men's Basketball
Bradley Reaches Title Game of CIT, Downs Pacific 59-49
PEORIA, Ill. Bradley junior guard Dodie Dunson came off the bench to score a team-high 13 points and the Braves (21-14) advanced to the championship game of a postseason tournament for the second consecutive year and for the 10th time in program history by knocking off Pacific 59-49 in the semifinals of the inaugural CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament Wednesday night at Carver Arena.
The Braves will host the winner of Thursday night’s other semifinal between Colonial Athletic Association rivals James Madison and Old Dominion in Tuesday’s championship game, which will start at 7:05 p.m. at Carver Arena and will be televised nationally on the premium cable and satellite channel Fox College Sports.
Senior forward Theron Wilson fought of a slight back injury to chip in 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals to aid the Bradley effort, while sophomore guard Sam Maniscalco chipped in 10 points and five assists. Pacific guard Michael Kirby scored a game-high 14 points, while forward Sam Willard added 10 points for the Tigers (21-13).
Both teams struggled to get on track in the first half, but Bradley took a 26-25 lead into the break thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Wilson and Maniscalco in the final 1:32 of the period. Monday’s hero, junior guard Chris Roberts, added a third straight Bradley 3-pointer by burying a trey from the top of the key to start the second half.
Bradley built its lead to eight points, 35-27, on a Taylor Brown jumper with 15:51, but the Braves were unable to put the Tigers away until late. Pacific closed to within two points three times, the last at 45-43, with 7:13 remaining and the Tigers were still within four, 53-49, after a Kirby 3-pointer with 2:47 remaining.
Taking advantage of a non-shooting foul and Pacific’s inability to control the rebound of a missed Maniscalco 3-pointer, the Braves were able to work more than a minute off the clock before Wilson delivered the dagger by dunking in Willard’s face with 1:31 left for a 55-49 advantage. Pacific missed its next two 3-point tries and Sams Singh and Maniscalco closed out the game by making two free throws apiece in the final 19 seconds for the final 10-point margin.
Bradley recovered from a cold-shooting first half (36.4 percent) by making 11-of-21 (.524) field goal attempts in the final 20 minutes. After shooting 40.7 percent (11-27) from the floor in the first half, Pacific made just 8-of-22 (.364) shots in the second period.
Bradley improved to 12-1 all-time in postseason tournament semifinal games and the Braves now will shoot for their first national postseason tournament title since winning the 1982 NIT. The last time the Braves won a tournament championship of any kind was the 1988 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, which also was played entirely at Carver Arena.