Photo: Jordan Eggleston
The Drake Bulldogs overcame a sluggish start and used a 16-0 run early the second half to pull away and topple the pesky Southwest Baptist Bearcats 101-80 in their first exhibition match of the season at the Knapp Center on Saturday night.
Freshman Joey King led the Bulldogs with a game-high 22 points and collected four rebounds. King finished 8-of-10 from the field and went 6-of-10 from behind the arc.
“My excitement was through the roof. I was really looking forward to my first collegiate game. I’m really happy that our team could pull out our first win,” King said. “I think I did a good job shooting the ball. My teammates really, really did an outstanding job driving and pitching, and I would make sure that I was in the right spot to knock down the shots.”
Head coach Mark Phelps was pleased with King’s impressive performance.
“I’m really happy for Joey (King). He’s been going through the freshman necessaries and everybody goes through it. He’s had some really hard times and they will continue,” Phelps said. “It was nice for him to have a night like tonight (Saturday). But we know that he’s capable of that.”
Drake had five players finish in double figures. Senior Ben Simons recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Playing for the first time in over a year after undergoing shoulder surgery last season, redshirt junior Seth VanDeest finished with 15 points. VanDeest was given a standing ovation when he left the court.
However, the Bearcats, a Division II school, made it a contest by relying on their hot three-point shooting. The Bearcats went 16-of-31 from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs trailed 44-42 at the break, but sparked by King and freshman Micah Mason, Drake amped its intensity and pulled away with a 16-0 run. Mason finished with 10 points and three steals. Drake finished with 10 steals and forced 21 turnovers.
“I thought we settled down. We knew they were going to shoot threes. We know their program. We scheduled them by design. We knew they were going to be a very competitive team, we knew they were going to stretch us from three and we needed that,” Phelps said. “I thought we settled down in the second half, we communicated better on defense, they had fewer open looks. I thought we upped our effort. And again, it’s a new team, we are figuring out what maximum effort is in a continual basis.”
Drake shot 59 percent from the floor and finished with 25 assists and shot 15-of-24 from three-point range. The Bulldogs played a very fast-paced game, a tempo much different from Phelps’ previous teams.
“We’ve been practicing like that. It’s kind of become second nature. With a guy like Richard Carter pushing the ball, he’s always up ahead on the floor, he forces everybody else to run,” Simons said. “I think that’s something we really wanted to do this year. We’ve really been working hard at in practice.”
Junior Richard Carter, starting at point guard, only finished with one point but played a highly effective floor game, ending the night with 10 assists and no turnovers.
“He’s figuring it out too — it’s an adjustment for him. This game was really good for him,” Phelps said. “I think we’ve seen, with his speed, his vision, as he continues to hone that, that he’s going to be a really big part of our team. Overall, I mean, to have 10 assists to zero turnovers is pretty good.”
Junior Gary Ricks Jr. chipped in with 12 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting night, all from three-point range.
Redshirt sophomore Jeremy Jeffers and fifth-year senior Chris Hines were inactive on Saturday night due to injuries. Jeffers is recovering from a concussion and should be cleared for contact today. Hines had a scope in his knee on Oct. 30, and the Bulldogs hope to have him ready to go by Nov. 17 when they hit the road to take on Detroit.
Having won their only official exhibition game, the Bulldogs will now get ready for their season opener against William Jewell on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. at the Knapp Center.