PEORIA - Junior Michelle Young (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury) scored a team-high 23 points and collected a career-best seven steals, while senior Catie O'Leary (Janesville, Wis./Parker/Wisconsin) added 19 points as the duo helped power Bradley to an 86-68 victory over Southern Illinois Saturday afternoon to wrap up the regular-season schedule.
The Braves (8-21 overall, 5-13) will be the #9 seed in next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and will play #8 seed Loyola Thursday at 4 p.m. in the opening round at Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo.
Bradley committed just four second-half turnovers and used a 12-0 run midway through the second half to pull away from Southern Illinois (5-24 overall, 3-15 MVC) down the stretch. The Braves led 40-37 at halftime and the Salukis pulled even at 46-46 on a Sidney Goins’ jumper with 15:46 to play.
Another Goins basket with 13:42 left pulled SIU within two points (53-51) before Bradley went on its biggest run of the game. The Braves held Southern Illinois without a field goal for over five minutes and built a 67-53 lead nearing the nine-minute mark with a 12-0 spurt.
Freshman Leti Lerma (Muscatine, Iowa/Muscatine) opened the run with a basket and Young had a steal and breakaway layup on the next SIU possession. Senior Kelsey Budd (Prairie du Sac, Wis./Sauk Prairie) found fellow senior Alyson Spinas-Valainis (Davenport, Iowa/Assumption) underneath for an easy bucket with 11:36 on the clock. Young split a pair of free throws after she collected one of her seven steals and Budd had another assist on a Spinas-Valainis hoop in the post.
Budd capped the run with a three-point play after she came up with a steal as Bradley built a 14-point advantage. The Braves extended the lead to as many as 19 points in the closing minutes and cruised to the 86-68 victory.
Young made 8-of-12 shots and finished with a team-high 23 points and seven steals as she became the first Bradley player to score 400 points in a season prior to their senior year since 2001-02. O’Leary added 19 points, six rebounds and two assists to help pace four Bradley players in double figures. Spinas-Valainis finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting as she scored in double figures for the ninth time in 14 home games this season.
Lerma led the Bradley reserves with 12 points and six boards off the bench. Budd matched a season-high with eight assists and also finished with three steals, collecting four points, three rebounds, eight assists and two steals in the second half. She became the sixth individual in program history to collect 300 points, 100 rebounds, 100 assists and 40 or more steals in a season in addition to climbing into seventh on Bradley’s career assist list.
Dyana Pierre led Southern Illinois with 27 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. She was 12-for-16 from the field, while Bradley limited the rest of the Salukis to just 33.3 percent shooting. Goins and Mercedes Griffin joined Pierre in double figures with 10 points.