Drake can’t keep up with Valley-leading WSU

Story by Luke Nankivell

Photo by Joel Venzke

Drake_Mens_Basketball_Vs_Wichita_State_0127-w2000-h2000The Drake Bulldogs took on the No. 5 Wichita State Shockers Saturday with a packed student section behind them but were unable to produce one of the biggest upsets in Drake’s history. The Bulldogs fell 78-61.

The last time Drake played a Top-10 team was when the Bulldogs took down No. 8 Butler in 2008. In the Associated Press’s latest Top-25 poll, the Shockers rank fourth.

Wichita State came into the Knapp Center as one of three undefeated Division I basketball teams in the country, with a 20-0 record.

“That team is extremely tough-minded. Each possession, they control their destiny,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti. “That’s a mirror of what we want to look like down the road.”

Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall applauded the Bulldogs after the game.

“I think they’re the best three-point shooting team we’ve seen all year,” he said. “It’s what kept them in it in the first half.”

Junior forward Chris Caird and senior forward Aaron Hawley combined for 7-of-12 from the three-point line. Junior guard Jordan Daniels added two as well.

Despite the effort, the Bulldogs had trouble maintaining a lead over the Shockers.

Drake only held a lead until the 16:19 mark in the first half. From there, Wichita State was able to control the rest of the game, at one point leading the Bulldogs by 25.

“That team can go in any place, anywhere, because of that toughness factor,” Giacoletti said.

Shockers senior forward Cleanthony Early, a Wooden Award candidate, led his team with 19 points, including shooting three-of-four from three-point range, and seven rebounds.

“He’s a tough matchup. He’s so versatile,” Hawley said. “That’s what good players do. They’ll stretch you out, and when you go up to play him, he’ll take you to the rim.”

The Drake student section, decked out in white, tried to disrupt the Shockers.

“The crowd was great,” Hawley said. “I just feel we lost our energy a little bit.”

Throughout the night, the crowd yelled out chants to the Shockers such as “Overrated!” and “Shock the Shockers!”

“Heckling is good for us,” Wichita State’s Early said. “It gives us a little motivation to prove them wrong.”

With the loss, Drake fell to an 11-9 record, ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference. After starting the season 9-3, the Bulldogs are just 2-6 in conference play.

Giacoletti stressed that after the loss, it’s important to take a day and then focus on the future.

“This one’s done,” Giacoletti said. “It’s time for Missouri State.”

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