Saturday, March 7, 2020

Rosenberg's Arch Madness 2020 live blog recap

By: Jeremy Rosenberg
Twitter: @CSportsOverload

MVC Semifinal No. 1: (8) Drake vs. (4) Bradley

            (2:11 pm) — Today’s coverage of Arch Madness 2020 will be in live blog form. I like this format because it forces me to respond to events in real time, and captures my early impressions without an ability to go back and edit. It should also, therefore, allow the reader to enjoy a snicker or two at my expense when I am completely wrong about some aspect of the game.

            (2:17 pm) — Dude singing Star-Spangled Banner nailed it. Crowd still filing in. Good Bradley turnout, but that is to be expected. Peoria is not so far from St. Louis, and being the defending Arch Madness champs means the program has momentum. 

            Des Moines is a bit farther away, and Drake had a light presence yesterday, especially compared to the Northern Iowa fans filling up huge sections of the lower bowl. Drake put out a call on social media to get fans down here, as a Bulldog championship would be historic to say the least. We’ll see if the students made the trip to the ‘Lou.

            (2:25 pm) — Will it play in Peoria? This was the old ad executive’s question. You can get lost catering to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, but the average consumer lives in a town more like Peoria than New York. Bradley hoops is Peoria’s hometown team. Like so many other small to mid-size towns across America, March Madness means a chance for communities to bond. 

            This is why college basketball will continue to play in Peoria, as well as all the places it represents. 

            (2:31 pm) — Almost time for tip-off. Bradley is the favorite, but I expect the game to be close. If Liam Robbins stays out of foul trouble, and Roman Penn plays as well as he did yesterday, it is well within reason to think Drake could pull another upset.

            (2:40 pm) — Bradley 9, Drake 4 15:22 remaining in half 

                        Elijah Childs has come to play. He is active on the boards, seems fired up and full of energy. Important to see that out of the gate, especially against a team that played an extra game Thursday night. Darrell Brown hit an open three, and looks comfortable and confident running the point.

            (2:50 pm) — Bradley 18, Drake 8 11:48 remaining in half

            Bradley continues its strong start with inside scoring from Koch Bar, and the effort off the bench of Finnish freshman Ville Tahvanainen. I always have an affinity for Finnish athletes, I like to imagine they embody the Sisu of their ancestors, especially Winter War veterans. Ever hear of a Molotov Cocktail? The Finns invented it, and named it after the Soviet Defense Minister. The used these devices to blow up countless Red Army tanks. Truly badass stuff.

            (3:01 pm) — Bradley 24, Drake15 7:47remaining in half

            Elijah Childs picked up his second foul, a technical on what looked like a little bit of post-play scrapping. Nothing dirty, just a little extracurricular activity under the basket. Basketball should be a physical game. I don’t like the technical there at all. Let them play. Bradley appears to be wearing Drake down with talent and depth. Childs’ second foul could slow them down. We’ll see how the Braves respond.

            (3:13 pm) — Bradley 36, Drake 27 3:28 remaining in half 

            This is the third Bradley game I’ve had the privilege to cover this season, and in the first two games, junior guard Danya Kingsby was not really involved on offense. Kingsby certainly has quickness, and today he is making a difference scoring, with seven points so far.

            (3:20 pm) — Bradley 44, Drake 33 52.2 remaining in half

            Darrell Brown has been terrific today, a perfect example of a point guard who can score when his team needs him to. Brown has 19 points and 1 assist. He has shown his full arsenal in the first half, driving to the hoop, knocking down threes, and converting from the free throw line.

            (3:25 pm) — Bradley 44, Drake 35 Halftime 

            The first half is in the books and Bradley has a nine-point lead. Both teams are shooting well from the floor, but Bradley has done a better job protecting the ball. Aside from. Brown’s 19 points, Kingsby has 9, and Koch Bar has 6. For Drake, Liam Robbins has been outstanding, with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and a block.

            (3:36 pm) — I feel like Bradley has this game in hand, and that Drake does not have a comeback in them. Maybe it is the energy level. Maybe it is the improbable win yesterday, eventually adrenaline wears off and nothing is left in the tank, I’m going to predict that Bradley pulls away and ends up winning this game by 12-15 points.

            (3:51 pm) — Bradley 49, Drake 36 16:00 left in game

            Bradley has pushed further ahead, as predicted. Kingsby continues his scoring ways, and senior guard Nate Kennell hit a big three. Drake seems to have a ‘happy to be here’ vibe about the way they are playing. Bradley fans like to chant B-U! Imagine the confusion if they end up playing Valpo U in the finals.

            (4:04 pm) — Bradley 52, Drake 49 11:32 left in game

            Drake storms back, led by Robbins and a streaky-hot Roman Penn, who has taken over on offense. This was always the threat, allowing Drake to hang around long enough for Penn to get hot and steal an upset. Kingsby took a few ill-advised shots and Drake capitalized. Bradley needs Brown to take over on offense and stop the bleeding. 
            (4:14 pm) — Bradley 61, Drake 5 17:41 left in game

            Pretty complete overall team effort by Bradley to stretch this lead back to ten. Childs hit a pretty jumper. Tahvanainen knocked down three free throws. Koch Bar got a standing ovation from the Bradley faithful when he went to the bench. Bar has 8 points, but zero fouls, even though he has been battling Liam Robbins all night.

            (4:23 pm) — Bradley 66, Drake 57 4:07 left in game

            Drake was storming back, and had grabbed momentum. But, then…IT happened. The dagger three. (Kevin Harlan’s voice in your head is optional.) With Drake within six points, Bradley forward Elijah Childs hit a huge three, breaking the Drake run and moving the deficit back to nine.

            (4:35 pm) — Bradley 70, Drake 61 1:11 left in game 

A sweet floating jumper in the lane by Brown was bookended by an Elijah Childs and one, and Bradley puts the game out of reach. Nothing but free throws from here out.

            (4:39 pm) — Bradley 76, Drake 66 Final Score

            Bradley (22-11) advances to the MVC Championship tomorrow, led by Darrell Brown, Elijah Childs, and Koch Bar. Bradley was in charge from start to finish, while Drake had enough fight in them to keep it close at times, Bradley clearly had more jump in the step. Final thoughts on this game and its implications after a break, and maybe coffee and a cookie if any are out.
            (4:58 pm) — Bradley advances to the MVC title game for the second straight year. Should they win, it will be the first back-to-back MVC Championships for the first time in school history. It would also only be the fourth title overall for Bradley. For the second straight season, Drake falls in the MVC semis. Anthony Murphy will be missed, but is the only loss for the Bulldogs. Liam Robbins and Roman Penn will be a force to be reckon with in the Valley next year.

MVC Semifinal 2: (6) Missouri State vs. (7) Valparaiso

            (5:06 pm) — Ready for semifinal number two, as the two lower seeds meet after knocking off the number two and three seeds. Missouri State was the MVC pre-season pick to win it all, but was inconsistent all year. They are deep, long, and athletic. Gaige Prim is a physical presence that Valpo may not have an answer for. My guess is that they should have too much overall depth and talent for the Crusaders to handle.

            But Valpo has one obvious strength. They can shoot the lights out when they are on. If Ryan Fazekas can get open, and Javon Freeman-Liberty can put a full, 40-minute effort together, Valpo could advance to the title game. 

            (5:23 pm) — Valparaiso 9, Missouri State 6 15:24 left in half

            A couple of early threes by Valpo junior forward Mileek McMillan set the tone for Valpo early, and the Crusaders have an early lead on the Bears. Gaige Prim is involved early with a couple of buckets for MO State.

            (5:32 pm) — Valparaiso 15, Missouri State11 11:44 left in half

            Valpo and MO State trading body blows, but Valpo keeps the upper hand. McMillan is involved on both ends of the court. His presence can negate Missouri State’s size advantage. He picked a very good time to play his best basketball.

            (5:41 pm) — Missouri State 23, Valparaiso 15 7:49 left in game

            MO State freshman Isiaih Mosley played well last night, making me wonder if Mizzou let a Columbia native get away. Tonight, Mosley is playing even better, as along with Keandre Cook they lead a 12-2 run for the Bears and MO State takes the lead.

            (5:50 pm) — Missouri State 31, Valparaiso 31 3:41 left in game

            Valpo looks explosive as they charge back, led by Javon Freeman-Liberty and Daniel Sackey. Freeman-Liberty labored to get to the bench at a time out, however, and seems like he is feeling the effects of his recent bout of mono. Gotta admire his guts. Sackey picks up the slack with a strong performance and clutch ball handling.

            (6:00 pm) — Valparaiso 40, Missouri State 38 Halftime

            A well-played, intense half of Valley basketball as Valpo and Missouri State both shoot 52 percent from the floor. Balanced scoring from both teams, as no player has cracked double digits for each team. This game has the feel of a down-to-the-wire nail biter.

            Given the large turnout by other schools, I’m a little surprised Missouri State does not have a larger fan presence here today. Springfield isn’t that far, and considering this weekend offers a chance at redemption for a disappointing season, you would think the MO State faithful would be out in force.

            (6:10 pm) — It just occurred to be that Arch Madness would be a great name for a Podiatrist Convention. They could recycle all the materials and have it right here in St. Louis. As for the second half, I like what I’m seeing from Valpo’s guards. It would be easy to pick MO State to wear down the Crusaders, but I say Freeman-Liberty, Sackey, and Donovan Clay have a big half, and meet Bradley in the final.

            (6:24 pm) — Valparaiso 55, Missouri State 46 15:32 left in game

            Valpo explodes out of the locker room, with inspired play by Freeman-Liberty and Donovan Clay. Aside from Prim on the inside, Missouri State is having a difficult time scoring, they need to get Mosley back in. Valpo senior Ryan Fazekas had been ice cold, but finally broke through with a big three set up by a Clay assist. Everything going Valpo’s way right now. We’ll see if it holds.

            (6:37 pm) — Valparaiso 65, Missouri State 55 10:35 left in game

            Javon Freeman-Liberty has arrived. He’s shown some flashes here and there, but he has exploded for 17 points in this semifinal. Add to that the play of freshman Donovan Clay and sophomore guard Daniel Sackey and Valpo is still running hot. Opposing coaches have to be very concerned at what they are seeing out of Clay. This guy will be around for three more years. He is the total package, very slippery near the net.

            (6:44 pm) — Valparaiso 71, Missouri State 60 8:00 left in game

            Valpo keeps MO State at arm’s length, as Freeman-Liberty continues to lead the way, now up to 23 points. Missouri State senior Ross Owens fouls out of what may be his final game. Coach Dana Ford electing to keep Gaige Prim on the bench.

            (6:56 pm) — Valparaiso 76, Missouri State 69 3:07 left in game

            Keandre Cook leads a mini-comeback for the Bears, but they can’t get closer than seven. After a couple more buckets by Freeman-Liberty, Valpo has gone cold. They need to take advantage, this is the last chance for Missouri State. 

            (7:11 pm) — Valparaiso 85, Missouri State 82 20.4 left in game

            Keandre Cook and Tulio Da Silva are not ready for their college careers to end. Taking advantage of spotty Valpo free throw shooting, the Bears have pulled within three. Cook with 26 points. Ready for a big finish!

            (7:15 pm) —Valparaiso 89, Missouri State 82 Final Score

            It’s never easy, is it? Missouri State made a furious comeback attempt, but fell short as Javon Freeman-Liberty and the Valparaiso Crusaders (19-15) pulled out the victory and advance to the MVC title game, and a chance at their first ever MVC Championship. Freeman-Liberty burst out of his shell, finishing with 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. 

            Missouri State will lick their wounds. The Bears lose a lot from this year’s team, and unless a new round of grad transfers heads for Springfield next year will be a rebuild for the Bears.

            Tomorrow’s title game against the Bradley Braves should be a good one. Watch for the matchup between Donovan Clay and Elijah Childs, as well as an obvious chance for Freeman-Liberty and Darrell Brown to shine.

            Good night from St. Louis!