PEORIA — Bradley basketball got a big win over Delaware on Tuesday night at Carver Arena.

That’s right. A big win. Over Delaware.

No, it doesn’t come close to beating No. 1 Cincinnati in 1960, or winning two NCAA semifinal games to reach national-championship contests in the 1950s, or knocking off Kansas and Pittsburgh to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2006. Doesn’t come close to a lot of wins BU has put in the books.

But relative to where the program has been for most of the past decade, and considering that the Blue Hens of Delaware have pummeled Bradley the past two seasons, this 61-53 brawl was an important win in putting BU basketball back on the right track.

First and foremost, Bradley won at home. That’s four in a row at Carver Arena, dating to the end of last season.

“Coach expresses that a lot,” senior Donte Thomas said. “We need to go out and defend the home court.”

If you can’t do that, you are nothing in college basketball. If you can’t dominate at home, you have no chance to compete for a conference championship, no matter whether you play in the Big Ten, the Missouri Valley or the SWAC.

And Bradley has not competed for a Valley championship in a long time. It bears repeating: Not since the 1996 have the Braves won a conference title. Not since the 2000-01 season have they finished higher than fourth in the league standings. Only a couple of times since 2001 have they posted truly outstanding home-court records.

The stark reality of college basketball is that the average home team wins 67.6 percent of the time. That is the midpoint success rate for all 351 Division I teams on their primary home court, according to the latest study by Collegiate Basketball News.

Bradley, with a .7025 winning percentage at Carver Arena since the place opened in 1982, ranks 139th. That’s barely into the upper half. Call it what it is: Mediocreville.

But it was not always this way.

For the first 19 seasons at Carver, 1982-2001, Bradley won 75.9 percent of its games there. That would rank 70th on the current list — not quite the rare air of the .804 winning percentage BU put up in old Robertson Memorial Field House, but still very good.

In the 16 seasons that followed, BU won games at Carver Arena only 63.7 percent of the time, a rate good for 231st place. The last six seasons have been particularly bad: a .520 winning percentage that would rank 325, ahead of only 26 D-I schools.

In the eight seasons from 1993-2001, Bradley lost a total of 16 games at Carver Arena. Only once in that time did the Braves lose as many as four games here. In the 16 years since then, they’ve lost fewer than four home games only three times.

So, yeah, every home win is big right now. If Bradley is to be taken seriously again, Carver must become a place opponents — no matter who they are — find impossible to win.

How to do that?

Play with the intensity and sense of purpose the Braves displayed Tuesday night.

The game was ugly. So what? The Braves made only 33 percent of their shots. Who cares? Offense comes and goes. BU still made 43 percent of its 3-pointers, committed only nine turnovers and posted a 1.22 assist-to-turnover ratio. What that means is the 2-point shots weren’t falling, but the rest of the offensive execution was pretty solid. Except for free throws, but we’ll save the rant on lousy foul shooting for another time.

Defensively, the Braves had a hard time stopping Delaware post Eric Carter, who scored 18 points and missed only two shots. But the rest of the Hens shot only 30.8 percent. On the boards, BU didn’t reach its goal of 75 percent of its defensive rebounds. But the Braves more than made up for that with 41 percent of their offensive rebounds, which they turned into a 22-8 advantage in second-chance points.

The effort and focus were consistent, almost from start to finish. As they must be.

And when the game arrived at decision time, Bradley wrung the Hens’ necks. Up 48-47 with 4:54 to play, Bradley outscored them 13-6 down the stretch, with five different Braves contributing points, as well as defensive stops.

“We stuck it out and pulled out the dub,” Thomas said.

The crowd, Wardle made a point to say, “was great down the stretch. The noise, how loud they were, really helped us. It was good to get that win in front of that crowd tonight.”

Yes, it was. Because word gets around. For a long time, it got around that Bradley couldn’t be expected to win consistently at home. This group is determined to change that.

“We want to reward people for coming out here,” Bradley junior Luuk van Bree said.

And, he might add, hope they spread the word and come back.

KIRK WESSLER is Journal Star sports editor. Contact him at kwessler@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @KirkWessler.