Bradley’s strong effort not enough to knock off second-seed Michigan State

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DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 21: Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye #23 of the Bradley Braves goes up for a shot against Xavier Tillman #23 of the Michigan State Spartans during their game in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 21, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

DES MOINES – For a good amount of their first NCAA Tournament in 13 years, they looked like they had the potential to be a Cinderella.

They had the lead at the half and deep into the second as this No. 15 seed was giving the No. 2 seed in the East Region all they could handle in Des Moines on Thursday afternoon.

Unfortunately for Bradley, who came into their game against Michigan State as an 18-point underdog, it wasn’t quite enough to pull off a major upset in the first round of “March Madness.”

The Spartans used a late 8-0 run to take the lead away from the Braves in the second half, sending Brian Wardle’s team home with a 76-65 defeat at Wells Fargo Arena. It gives Bradley a 20-15 record to end the season, one in which they qualified for their first NCAA Tournament since the 2006 season.

A different result could have been envisioned a few times over the course of the game, one in which the Braves by one at the half then took a five-point lead 53 seconds into the second half on an Elijah Childs’ dunk. The Spartans would go onto build as much as a seven-point lead, going up 48-41 on a Nick Ward jumper with 13:28 remaining, but Bradley wouldn’t go away.

Child’s jumper with 7:05 to play gave Bradley a 55-54 lead, but Michigan State would snag it back with eight-straight points following the hoop and slowly pulled away down the stretch.

Cassius Winston, whose two free throws with 6:24 left and hoop with 4:09 left gave the Spartans the lead for good, finished with a game-high 26 points. Childs led the way for Bradley with 19 points, spurring an effort that threw a scare in the second seed, but not enough to make the Braves the “Cinderella” team of 2019.

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