Story by Luke Nankivell
The Drake Bulldogs’ stay in St. Louis lasted one night after losing in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Drake was defeated by Evansville, who split the regular season series with the Bulldogs, Thursday night 69-61. With the loss, Drake finished the season with a 15-16 record.
Senior guard Richard Carter recorded with 10th 20-point game of the season, finishing with 26. He also had seven assists.
With his 26 points, Carter tallied 514 points on the season, 17th most for a Bulldog in a season.
“I’m proud of our three seniors and what they’ve been able to accomplish and buying in on a brand new staff,” Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “This team has grown as we’ve gone through the year.”
Redshirt senior center Seth VanDeest led the team in rebounds, pulling in eight before fouling out of his final game. Junior guard Jordan Daniels, the only other Drake player to finish the game in double-digit points, scored 11 in the contest.
Drake was able to start the game with a lead, and held onto that lead for some time. However, during the first half, the Bulldogs went on yet another scoring drought. In a span of six minutes, Drake scored only five points, allowing the Aces to go on an 11-0 run and take the lead.
Coming out of the half, down 39-28 to Evansville, Drake went on an 8-0 run in the first four minutes of the second half. The Aces called a timeout, effectively stopping Drake’s momentum.
By the 10:45 mark, Evansville pulled to a 15-point lead, but the Bulldogs proved they wouldn’t go down without a fight. A 9-0 run in under two minutes put Drake back in the mix with just under nine minutes of play left.
The Aces proved to be too much for the Bulldogs, extending their lead back to double-digits just three minutes later. They pulled ahead of Drake by 13 in the final minutes, and the Bulldogs were unable to catch up with the Aces.
Evansville’s D.J. Balentine scored 30 points in the Aces’ win over Drake, solidifying his spot as the MVC’s top scorer. Egidijus Mockevicius of Evansville almost recorded a triple-double, scoring a career-high 19 points and pulling in 10 rebounds while blocking eight Drake shots, the second most in a MVC tournament game.
“We tried playing zone, switching defenses, and (Balentine)’s a guy that’s become extremely versatile in not just scoring but passing the ball,” Giacoletti said.
Looking ahead to Coach Giacoletti’s second season, Drake is expected to return two starters, as well as welcome back senior guard Gary Ricks, Jr. who missed most of the season with an injury.
“They’ve never splintered, cracked or quit and I appreciate the foundation they’ve laid in our first year here at Drake,” Giacoletti said.