Story by Taylor Soule
Photo by Jordan Eggleston
Five Bulldogs reached double figures in scoring compared to the Redbirds’ four. Drake drained 12 3-pointers compared to Illinois State’s six. The Bulldogs shot 42.9 percent from behind the arc while the Redbirds shot 33.3 percent.
Drake’s noteworthy statistics omit last Wednesday’s collapse, though. They omit the Bulldogs’ shaky shooting down the stretch. They omit Illinois State’s steady second half play. Mostly, they omit the final score — 94-86 in the Redbirds’ favor.
The devastating loss dropped No. 8 Drake to 5-7 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
After a 0-4 start against MVC opponents, Drake staged a turnaround with wins over Valley powerhouses Creighton and Indiana State. On Wednesday night, however, Drake’s turnaround stalled, disappointing the Bulldogs and the Bulldog faithful alike.
A transformed Illinois State squad surprised the Knapp Center in the second half. As the Redbirds nailed shot after shot en route to a late 16-2 run, the Bulldogs’ struggled to replicate the first half, a half defined by nine Drake treys.
“We didn’t defend in the second half, and that’s how a team comes back from the lead that we had in the first half and even in the second half and gets the win,” said Drake head coach Mark Phelps in a Drake athletics press release. “So, disappointing. We turned the ball over down the home stretch.”
Fifth-year senior Chris Hines echoed Phelps’ frustration.
“We didn’t take care of the ball, and we needed to at that time,” Hines said. “We know how to. We know we can, and we just didn’t do it.”
That late lapse contrasted Drake’s first half performance. Nine 3-pointers translated into a 17-point advantage with 5:56 left in the first stanza. Drake closed the half with a Jordan Clarke layup to enter the break with a 51-40 edge.
When the Bulldogs hit Ron Pearson Court after the break, though, that three-point fairytale had ended, leaving shaky shooting and defensive slips in its wake.
“We shot the ball so well in the first half,” said senior Ben Simons. “You can’t bank on that happening the whole game. You have to get stops and didn’t do that, unfortunately, down the stretch and didn’t make enough plays, really, anywhere to win the game.”
Wednesday’s win improved Illinois State to 5-7 in MVC play, ranking a spot ahead of Drake in seventh. Seniors Tyler Brown and Jackie Carmichael led the Redbirds with 25 and 23 points, respectively.
Five Bulldogs scored in double figures on Friday. Junior Richard Carter led the way with 17 points. Hines contributed 16 points. Simons finished with 13 tallies. The senior Clarke registered a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Joey King recorded 11 points on the night.
With the Illinois State defeat lingering, the Bulldogs look to rebound with a victory over MVC powerhouse Wichita State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Wichita, Kan.
Wednesday’s contest welcomes a chance to avenge the Shockers’ 75-63 triumph on Jan. 2 at the Knapp. Led by junior Cleanthony Early, the Shockers rank third in the Valley. Early averages 14.6 points per game.
With the sting of last Wednesday’s loss still lingering, a single goal prevails as Drake awaits a dangerous Wichita State squad.
“We need to play better down the home stretch,” Phelps said.