STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
Drake ended up on the losing end in their final regular season game, falling to Southern Illinois in Carbondale 63-57.
Despite a strong performance from freshman Reed Timmer, Drake struggled on the defensive end, allowing the Salukis to shoot over 60 percent in the first half on their way to a 37-25 lead.
“We just couldn’t get stops,” head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “This was third consecutive half in which our opponent shot 60 percent from the field.”
The game started with Drake getting the first basket from senior Trevor Berkeley, but Southern Illinois came back behind Anthony Beane, who scored five quick points to pace the Salukis early on. Gary Ricks Jr. hit a big three early and Timmer hit back-to-back jumpers to keep the game close in the early minutes, but Southern Illinois continued to shoot well from the field, matching each Drake basket with two of their own, building a 12 point lead at the 8:38 mark of the half.
Drake fought back for the rest of the half, using big shots from Ricks and Chris Caird to chip the lead back down to six, but the Salukis continued to pull ahead ever so slightly, getting some big points from the free throw line, a key problem for the Bulldogs who only shot four during the entire regulation.
“It’s tough to win when you don’t get to the line,” Giacoletti said. “We needed to make some adjustments, drive to the lane a little more, and we didn’t do that as well as we would’ve liked.”
The second half started much like the first half ended, with both teams shooting at a high percentage.
The main difference was that Drake was hitting from three, chipping away at the lead. Three consecutive three pointers started the half for the Bulldogs between Saluki baskets, carving the lead down to five. The final three was from Timmer, who had a game and career high 25 points.
“That was as good of a performance by a freshman I’ve seen in a while,” Giacoletti said. “The future is very bright for him.”
However, Drake embarked on a scoring drought that would last four minutes as Southern Illinois regained a double digit lead, extending it to 14 with 11:09 left. The game was never in doubt after that, as Drake couldn’t get on a run or get a defensive stop until the final minute. After shifting to a full-court press. Drake generated a little momentum with a steal, but they unable to convert enough on the offensive end to finish the comeback.
Ricks poured in 11 of his own, while Jacob Enevold Jensen scored six and pulled down eight rebounds.
“We have a simple philosophy, to get better every day,” Giacoletti said. “Now it’s time to step up.”
With the regular season over the Bulldogs now turn toward the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis.
The seventh seed Bulldogs will face tenth seed Bradley on Thursday, against whom Drake is 2-0 this season.
Tip off is at 8:30 p.m.