Updated at: 12/01/2012 7:05 PM
By DAVID MERCER
(AP) PEORIA, Ill. - Bradley had a chance to knock off No. 3 Michigan on Saturday. Boosted by a strong crowd, it trailed by just four at halftime.
The Braves just couldn’t find an answer for a freshman making his first start.
Nik Stauskas scored 22 points, leading the undefeated Wolverines to a 74-66 win at Bradley.
"I thought we were pretty good today," Braves coach Geno Ford said. "But I certainly don’t think we were great, and that’s what it was going to require."
Walt Lemon Jr. led Bradley (5-2) with 15 points. Tyshon Pickett added 11, and Will Egolf finished with 10.
But Egolf, who had eight points in the first half, picked up his fourth foul early in the second and was on the bench for most of the final 20 minutes.
"He gets his fourth foul and that’s pretty much when the game got away from us," Ford said.
The 6-foot-6 Stauskas was the biggest problem. He was 8 for 15 from the field, including a 4-for-5 performance from 3-point range. The freshman said he knew he was ready for the expanded role.
"It was a little bit exciting, but when the game starts you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do," he said. "Like I told (Trey Burke), every time I’m open, I’m going to knock it down. ... I owe it all to this guy."
Burke, who had 16 points and five assists, was sitting next to Stauskas when he said he had faith in the freshman.
"I don’t think he’s lying," Burke joked. "I get on him when he does miss one."
The Wolverines (7-0) extended their best start under coach John Beilein in their first trip to Bradley since 1997. Michigan left town with a loss on that occasion, 74-67.
This visit by the Wolverines attracted a crowd of 11,019 to Carver Arena, the best showing for a Braves home game in five years.
Lemon led Bradley on a late run to close to 70-65 in the final minute. But the Braves were forced to foul and the Wolverines held on for the win.
Stauskas made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left, and then headed to the sideline for congratulations from coaches and teammates alike.
Glenn Robinson III scored 13 for Michigan, and Jordan Morgan had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Morgan said the smaller, less-heralded Braves provided a tough test, comparable to what he expects when Big Ten play starts.
"They were definitely a really physical team," Morgan said. "It definitely was a battle."
Lemon and fellow guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards kept two of Michigan’s most dangerous options, Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., under control for much of the game.
Burke had eight points at halftime and Hardaway was scoreless at that point.
"Those two guards are as good a defensive guards as we’ve seen all year long," Beilein said.
And when Lemon glided to the basket with 26 seconds left in the first half and delivered a soft, easy layup, the Braves were down just 34-30, exciting the crowd.
But Stauskas made a 3-pointer early in the second half to extend Michigan’s lead to 42-32. Drifting back from the basket, he watched the shot fall, held up three fingers as it dropped and allowed himself a little smile.
It was part of a 13-4 run that helped the Wolverines build a 45-34 advantage.
Lemon orchestrated Bradley’s late run. His layup with 28 seconds to play cut the deficit to 70-65.
But the Braves were forced to foul and the rally ended. Egolf fouled out with less than a minute left.
The Wolverines return home Tuesday to face Western Michigan. Bradley hosts George Washington on Tuesday.
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(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)