DES MOINES, Iowa — In the 34 days since Bradley hosted Drake at Carver Arena — and heading into the rematch Tuesday at the Knapp Center — the Braves' season has gone from what BU coach Brian Wardle described then as “The Twilight Zone” to another old television favorite, “Happy Days.”

A month ago, the Braves were at their lowest ebb in what to that point was a season of high expectations that appeared to be inexplicably slipping away.

After getting pummeled by Drake at home 69-52 in a game it trailed 33-15 at halftime, Bradley was off to a 0-5 start in the Missouri Valley Conference. Three of the losses came at Carver Arena and the home fans were disgruntled.

With abysmal shooting percentages of .345 from the field and .292 on 3-pointers in those opening five league contests, there seemed little hope the Braves could climb out of the large hole and avoid a return to the dreaded Thursday night MVC tournament play-in round.

But then came a road trip to Southern Illinois. Because of an impending snowstorm, the Braves left town on Friday for the Sunday afternoon game. The team bonded with lots of time together, some of it spent as good samaritans pushing stuck cars out of the snow in Carbondale.

The three days away from the distractions and despair surrounding them at home were exactly the tonic this team needed.

“We got our mojo back at Southern Illinois,” said BU guard Darrell Brown. “We spent a lot of time together off the court.”

Then came Sunday’s game. While the shooting didn’t improve much, the BU defense and a solid finish held off the Salukis in a 57-54 win.

Three days later, that mojo clicked into high gear back home as Bradley thumped Illinois State 85-68.

That night, BU recorded season shooting highs of .574 from the field and .588 from beyond the arc.

“We made shots and that always helps,” Brown said. “Earlier in the year, we were moving the ball and doing the same thing. But when you don’t make shots, it doesn’t look like it.”

The hot shooting from long range continued. In four of the next seven games, the Braves connected on half or more of their 3-point attempts.

Part of the increase can be attributed to the insertion of Luuk van Bree and Luqman Lundy into the lineup. Van Bree was 8-for-17 from deep beginning with the first ISU game, while Lundy was 5-for-9.

The pair has complemented Brown and Nate Kennell by providing more perimeter weapons and moving the ball more crisply and efficiently. In those nine games beginning with the SIU game, Bradley went 7-2 and Brown is an unconscious 29-for-49 from 3 (.592), while Kennell is 22-for-43 (.512).

Overall, in the last eight games, BU (15-12, 7-7) is shooting .469 from 3-point range (68-for-145) and .490 (210-for-429) from the field.

That .469 3-point clip is the third-best nationally for that timeframe. Bradley’s national rank for 3-point shooting has risen from 267th on Jan. 12 (32 percent) to 71st (36.8 percent). BU has moved up in the Valley for league game stats in the category from ninth to second.

Wardle discussed the vastly improved offensive numbers last week.

“I just think the ball’s moving quicker and we’re making quicker decisions,” he said. “We’re more decisive and confident with the ball.”

Bradley is locked in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Valley behind the three teams tied for first -- Loyola, Drake and Missouri State, all at 9-5.

The Braves have played themselves into a good opportunity to avoid the Thursday play-in round, But as compacted as the standings are, nothing is guaranteed despite just four games remaining. Only five games separate first from last place.

Still, what Bradley has achieved in rebounding from that 0-5 start is rare. Since the MVC adopted a 10-team tournament format in 1997, just three teams (UNI, 2017, 0-5; Illinois State, 2013, 0-6 and Bradley, 2008, 0-4) have opened MVC play 0-4 or worse and recovered to stay clear of Thursday night.

That UNI unit vaulted all the way to the No. 3 seed at 9-9, ISU grabbed the sixth seed at 8-10 and the ’08 Braves finished 9-9 and earned the No. 5 seed.

As impressive in a different way is the season Drake has compiled despite returning just a handful of players in the wake of a coaching change from Niko Medved to Darian DeVries.The new staff assembled a highly competitive roster on the fly last spring.

On Saturday, Drake beat Valparaiso to become the first Valley team to win 20 games this year. It was also the first time the Bulldogs have hit the 20 mark since their last title in 2008. It was only the sixth time in Drake’s 107-year hoops history the program has won 20 or more.

"(Getting 20 wins) just means a lot — in terms of what these guys have done, in terms of how they’ve pulled together and believed in each other, stayed the course," DeVries told the Des Moines Register. "We’ve had a lot of close games and they’ve found a lot of ways to win games, which is an awesome characteristic of a team that’s pretty connected. It’s not one guy any particular night; it’s all the guys doing their job and believing in each other."

Sounds familiar. Should be a much closer matchup this time around.

Dave Reynolds can be reached at 686-3210 or at Follow him on Twitter at davereynolds2.