PEORIA — The Bradley women's basketball team made a couple of big plays late and came all the way back from an early 15-point deficit to take the lead against Southern Illinois in the final minute ... twice.
But the Braves were not able to hold onto the lead, and dropped their first Missouri Valley Conference game of the season, 63-62, on Friday night at Renaissance Coliseum.
SIU sophomore Nicole Martin rebounded her own shot, was fouled, and then made both free throws with 6.5 seconds left to provide the winning points for the Salukis (9-7, 4-1).
BU took a 60-59 lead on a steal and layup by Anneke Schlueter (14 points, three steals) with 59 seconds left in the game.
After East Peoria product Kylie Giebelhausen (nine points, five assists, two steals, two blocks) hit a jumper for SIU to regain the lead, 61-60, Danielle Brewer made a driving layup to give BU a 62-61 lead with 23 seconds left.
Martin (11 points) then made the game-winning play to hand the Braves (9-6, 3-1) their first MVC loss of the season.
"We missed the box-out on the last defensive possession, and that cost us the game," Bradley coach Andrea Gorski said. "They had 16 offensive rebounds, and you're not going to win many basketball games giving up 16 extra possessions."
SIU finished with 37 boards to 33 (16-10 on the offensive end) for the Braves, who were playing without leading rebounder Chelsea Brackman because of an injury.
The Salukis jumped out to a 19-11 lead in the first period, and opened up a 30-15 advantage on a jumper by Makenzie Silvey (13 points) with 4:40 left in the first half. SIU led at halftime, 35-27.
The Braves started the second half with a 7-2 spurt, and chipped away at the SIU lead until they took the lead at 53-52 on a jumper by Nyjah White with 7:18 left in the fourth.
"Bradley started the second half very aggressive," SIU and former Illinois Central College coach Cindy Stein said. "They're a good-shooting team, and we gave them some open shots that they didn't hit in the first half. They made those in the second half and made it a lot tougher."
Bradley took the lead again at 58-57 after a Shunseere Kent (10 points) free throw. There were five more lead changes after that, with the final one going to SIU.
After Martin's free throws, Brewer (eight points, four assists) missed a 3-point try, and the ball went out of bounds off a BU player with 1.4 seconds left to all but seal the win for SIU.
"We followed the game plan in the second half," Gorski said of the BU comeback. "I don't know why we weren't ready to go in the first quarter that we were so out of sort. We had to wake up a little bit and get going. You can't spot a 15-point lead and expect to win the game."
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.