Warren game-winner comes on eve of Willis’ last-second lay-up to defeat Bradley one year ago

By Gus Bode

Factoid:SIU hosts Bradley tonight at 7:05

Josh Warren’s rainbow-three pointer Saturday left, and still has, many people in awe.

But maybe no one should’ve been surprised. Darren Brooks wasn’t.


“When I saw that, I wasn’t even surprised because there was so much crazy stuff going on in that game,” Brooks said after the game.

Maybe everyone should have expected something dramatic to happen, not because of the unusual occurrences Brooks spoke of, but because of history.

Not even a year ago another unlikely candidate, Sylvester Willis, played hero, scoring a game-winning lay up on an 80-foot pass from Brooks to beat Bradley.

Learning his former teammate had hit a clutch shot left even the colorful Willis at a loss for words. Well, momentarily.

“Josh Warren? Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” Willis said. “I hope that he can use that as a building block for the rest of the season.

“Maybe he’ll get drafted.”

Warren can continue to build his NBA draft stock tonight as Bradley makes its way to Carbondale for the first time since suffering that 72-71 heartbreaker.


Bradley, though extremely young with eight new faces, has found its way into a three-way tie with Creighton and Illinois State for fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Braves were picked to finish seventh in the preseason conference poll.

The departures of guards Phillip Gilbert, James Gillingham and Marcello Robinson left gaping holes – 37.1 points and 10.2 rebounds – in Bradley’s starting lineup.

Bradley (10-4, 3-3) is tagging opponents with 72.9 points a game, nearly seven more buckets than last season, despite losing its guard trio.

“In transition they’re very, very good,” said SIU head coach Chris Lowery. “But they play a lot of young guys, so hopefully our pressure can affect them.”

Those young guys Lowery speaks of are Pratt Community College transfer Tony Bennett and freshmen Patrick O’Bryant, Jeremy Crouch and Daniel Ruffin.

The quartet has complemented the Valley’s leading scorer, Marcellus Sommerville, both in the paint and on the perimeter.

Bennett and Crouch have become the Braves’ second and third leading scorers, dropping 13.1 and 10 points a game.

In his first collegiate season, Ruffin has prospered as Bradley’s floor general, handing out 5.92 assists and collecting 1.92 steals a game.

In the frontcourt O’Bryant has been just as effective, using his 7-foot, 260-pound frame to average an MVC-best eight rebounds and 3.14 blocks a game.

O’Bryant, Ruffin and Bennett have each been named conference Newcomer of the Week this season. No other MVC team has had more than one player earn the same honor.

SIU (14-3, 3-3) needed a last-second prayer to beat Southwest Missouri State and now faces Bradley, which could possibly use the same 2-3 zone the Bears played so effectively Saturday.

Whether or not Bradley goes zone is questionable, but one certainty is the Saluki big men will have to play better on-ball defense.

SMS forward Nathan Bilyeu had his way with the Saluki big-men off the dribble, drawing fouls and creating wide-open looks for his teammates.

Now they have the challenge of slowing down arguably the best frontcourt player in the conference in Sommerville. Bradley’s 6-foot-7, 230-pound monster averages 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.

And his game extends beyond the paint – he also has the range to stretch a defense and is shooting a team-best 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Mike Dale was able to lock down Bilyeu for the better part of the second half, but whoever guards Sommerville will have his hands full.

Sommerville scored 14 points, yanked down 10 rebounds, picked up four steals and blocked two shots the last time the two teams met.

“He’s playing the four for them, but he’s really a three,” Lowery said. “It’s going to be a mismatch problem for anybody who plays him.”

As far as Warren and his teammates soaring too high on cloud nine after Saturday’s thriller, don’t be worried.

“That was a great feeling,” Warren said. “But it’s time to move on because we have to take care of business and try to win this MVC Championship again.”

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]