Story by Tad Unruh
Photo by Joel Venzke
The quarterfinals of the MVC Championships pitted the Bulldogs against the Bluejays for the second time in consecutive seasons with similar results.
“In terms of the effort, intensity and urgency department, I felt we were really good tonight,” head coach Mark Phelps said in a Drake athletics press release. “Defensively, if you would have told me that we would have held Creighton to 65 points coming into the game, I thought we would have been at a great chance there to win the game. “
The Bluejays opened the game with a statement, stretching their lead to nine in just under 11 minutes to take a 22-13 advantage, but the Bulldogs stayed within striking distance.
Drake held on and narrowed the Creighton advantage to a point with fewer than five minutes left in the first half, thanks to a momentum-gaining layup by senior Ben Simons. A Creighton foul sent Simons to the charity stripe as he converted the three-point play.
That would be the closest Drake came to taking the lead the rest of the game. Creighton stretched the Drake defecit to 33-26 at the break.
Redshirt junior Seth VanDeest and junior Richard Carter kept Drake in the game. Carter finished with a team-high 14 points, and VanDeest scored 13 points and registered seven boards.
Back-to-back VanDeest layups narrowed the margin to 46-50, the last points the Bulldogs scored before a nearly 7-minute drought.
The Bluejays extended their lead with a 12-2 run, and the Bulldogs lacked an answer.
“We were within a couple there, a few minutes left,” VanDeest said. “They made their run, and we weren’t able to respond. Basketball is a game of runs. Most of the second half, we responded with our own. We couldn’t respond to that last one and got blown away.”
Despite the loss, Drake was grateful for the seniors’ contributions to the program. Carter played with his senior teammates in mind.
“I just wanted to come out and play hard for my teammates, especially for our seniors,” Carter said. “They did a lot for us. I was trying to get us to play another game for them.”
Phelps echoed Carter’s sentiments, as the seniors were honored for their dedication to Bulldog basketball.
“Jordan Clarke has made uncommon sacrifices in terms of his body for this basketball program,” Phelps said. “We are so appreciative of Jordan. Ben had a terrific, terrific four year career. And for Chris Hines to trust us with his one year of eligibility … that means a lot.”
Simons earned an MVC Second Team nod for the second consecutive season.
Drake shot just 35 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc, pulling down 24 rebounds and committing just eight turnovers. The Bulldogs forced 17 Creighton turnovers but failed to convert enough Bluejay errors.
Creighton turned in a Doug McDermott-heavy performance as the junior recorded 23 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore center Will Artino added 14 crucial points off the bench, including two run-stopping jumpers in the second half.
The Bluejays shot 46.8 percent from the field despite shooting only 25 percent from beyond the arc.
With the up-and-down play of the Bulldogs throughout the season, a single stat hardly defines their play. Every game depended on which team was shooting well and playing consistently. Drake battled inconsistency and shaky shooting throughout the 2012-13 season.
Though the Bulldogs finished their season unceremoniously, they boast a number of talented returners.
The Bulldogs will return 11 players for the 2013-14 campaign, including starters VanDeest and Carter. Standout freshman Joey King returns next season after earning an MVC All-Freshman Team nod.
But as to the Bulldogs’ 2012-13 exit on Friday in St. Louis, Carter explained the loss to Creighton plainly and simply.
“We couldn’t make shots, we were trying to play good defense, but the shots just weren’t falling for us tonight,” Carter said.