CARBONDALE — SIU's plan at Bradley Tuesday night was only half the battle.
The Salukis came up with some big buckets in the last four minutes at Carver Arena in Peoria, but failed too many times at the other end in a 68-62 loss. Sean Lloyd's three-point play with 3:43 left pulled SIU within four. Tyler Smithpeters followed with a 3-pointer from the left side off an assist from center Kavion Pippen to cut Bradley's lead to one.
The Braves (13-5, 3-2 Missouri Valley Conference) always found an answer. Jayden Hodgson, who scored 11 points, pushed his team's lead to three with a short jumper in the paint. Moments after Pippen pulled SIU (10-8, 2-3) within one with 64 seconds to go, senior forward Donte Thomas put his team up four with a three-point play. Thomas got past Pippen on the left side of the lane and scored through contact.
"The second half, coach just told us to be aggressive, and we came out and did that," said Lloyd, who led the Salukis with 14 points. "We pulled to within one, we just couldn't get over that hump."
Down four in the final 20 seconds, Smithpeters tried to throw the ball over the top of a trap on the perimeter. A Bradley defender tipped the pass, and Elijah Childs picked up the loose ball. Armon Fletcher fouled Hodgson, who hit two free throws with four seconds to go for the final margin.
"We had two timeouts, where we drew up two specific plays," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "One of them, actually at the end of the ballgame, with initials on the board and telling them where to go, and we lost our focus."
SIU fell to 2-3 in games decided by six points or less.
Bradley moved to 4-2 in games decided by six points or less.
"There's going to be a lot of two-to-three-possession games. Anyone can beat anyone on any given night," said Bradley coach Brian Wardle. "The big key is finding ways to win at home, and holding home court, and now you gotta go on the road and try to steal some. We were able to hold home court (Tuesday night)."
SIU returns home to face Illinois State on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m., as the game is on CBS Sports Network.