STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
In the final game at the Knapp Center this season, the Drake Bulldogs fell to the Loyola Ramblers in overtime, 80-75.
This loss means that Drake will remain in seventh place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a record of 6-11 in the conference and 9-20 overall.
Jacob Enevold Jensen led the way with a career high 21 points and eight rebounds, shooting a perfect nine of nine from the field. Reed Timmer scored 15 points and Chris Caird chipped in 12 of his own to lead the way for the Bulldogs.
“This was (Enevold’s) best night offensively all year, maybe since he’s been at Drake,” Coach Ray Giacoletti said after the game.
In the first half, senior Trevor Berkeley started off hot, scoring the Bulldogs first five points. The low post defense got a huge boost with back-to-back blocks by Jensen and Berkeley on the same possession, leading to a Karl Madison layup on the other end.
Scoring picked up at the 10:07 mark as Jordan Daniels hit the first of four consecutive three pointers by Drake, giving the Bulldogs a nine point lead with 8:14 remaining.
However, the run ended as Christian Thomas fueled a Rambler comeback with back-to-back baskets, part of his twelve points in the half.
Drake scored their last points of the half on a Chris Caird three with 2:21 on the clock, but Loyola responded with a 9-0 run. After twenty minutes, Drake trailed 35-30, with momentum mounted against them.
“We have to get better defensively. We need to trust each other and buckle down on that end,” Timmer said.
The second half started with one plan from Drake offensively, get the ball to the big guy, Jensen. The seven-foot sophomore scored eight points in the first seven minutes, keeping Drake in the game despite some hot shooting from Loyola.
Rebounding continued to be a struggle as Loyola pulled down 26 boards, compared to 18 for the Bulldogs.
Momentum shifted slightly when Gary Ricks drained a three from the left corner on a skip pass from Reed Timmer through two Loyola defenders with just over 11 minutes left in the game, closing the gap to five. Giacoletti switched the defensive gameplan to a 2-3 zone soon after in an attempt to give the Bulldogs the upper hand.
Drake’s offense started clicking as the half progressed thanks to clutch shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
The Bulldog defense started to come alive late as they kept up with the Loyola defense, creating problems for Loyola, who struggled to find the open looks that they had had in the first half.
The Bulldogs tied the game on a rebound and put-back from Jensen with 7:17 left, energizing the crowd.
Drake’s tough defense continued as no shot went uncontested, Jensen and Caird holding the fort inside as the Bulldogs earned their first lead of the game. However, Loyola came back and tied the game at 65 with a three from Ben Richardson with just over three minutes left.
Earl Peterson gave Loyola the lead with 59 seconds remaining with a baseline jumper, and Drake responded with a Timmer runner to tie it back up. A last second shot by Peterson fell short and the game proceeded to overtime, 67-67.
Loyola scored the first bucket of the extra period. Drake responded by continuing the strategy of getting the ball to Jensen, the sophomore touching the ball on every possession.
However, Loyola was able to match a Jensen’s offense with some scores of their own, putting Drake with a four-point disadvantage going into the final minute.
Drake’s offense struggled as the game wound down and Loyola’s free throws sealed the deal. The Ramblers left the Knapp Center with a victory and a season sweep with a final score of 80-75.
“We’ve got one more opportunity to improve before the tournament,” Giacoletti said.
The opportunity Giacoletti is referring to is Saturday’s game as the Bulldogs travel to Southern Illinois on Saturday for a 3:00 p.m. matchup with the Salukis, the last game of the regular season.