The Men’s Basketball team couldn’t break its cold streak on the road this week. Drake (6-20, 1-13 MVC) met Southern Illinois (20-7, 9-5 MVC) on Saturday and the young Bulldogs team was saddled with their fourth consecutive loss by a score of 75-60.
“We have 10 freshmen and sophomores and there is still a couple pieces to add to get to where we want to go,” head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “It’s an everyday process in building a young team, in a senior dominant league.”
A 12-10 lead eight minutes into the game gave Drake reason for optimism. But Southern Illinois’ strong defense interrupted the Bulldogs’ rhythm. After Drake went on a 9-0 run, SIU answered with a 17-2 run of their own spurred by its lockdown defense.
A 3-point play by Casey Schlatter in the final 90 seconds of the first half pulled the Bulldogs to within a single digit deficit. However, the SIU offense was able to pull ahead and end the first with a 10-point lead, 37-27.
The Bulldogs closed the half with a 43 percent field goal average.
The second half was a similar story. The Bulldogs shot 43 percent. However, they were unable to convert from the arc at all, missing on all nine attempts. Southern Illinois shot 58 percent in the second and 38 percent from 3-point land.
The Bulldogs were hard pressed in battling SIU’s strong defense and controlling its offense, led by the MVC’s top scorer, Anthony Beane. Beane scored 31 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Nine points from Beane powered an 11-3 stretch for SIU to start the second half, a run that left the Bulldogs with little to work with.
Drake never closed the gap to less than six in the second half as SIU coasted to victory.
But in the darkness, there is always a little bit of light.
Kale Abrahamson had a phenomenal game. He scored 15 points, his most in Missouri Valley Conference play, and was able to land the Bulldogs’ only 3-pointer of the game.
Ore Arogundade set a career-high in rebounds with nine and scored 11.
“Being a consistent presence on both ends feels good,” Arogundade said. “It feels good to make an impact.”
Starting center Dominik Olejniczak didn’t have such a good day in the paint. He didn’t record a single rebound, although he did score 10 points.
“Main topic in practice is getting rebounds… rebounds, rebounds, rebounds,” Olejniczak said. “(I’m) working on low post and pick and roll coverage, spending an extra 20 minutes in practice time.”
In addition to his offensive and rebounding presence, Giacoletti wants to see Olejniczak have a greater impact on the defensive end.
“He’s scoring for us, but we need him to fill that role on the defensive end … which he does for a few minutes each game, but we need him to extend those minutes,” Giacoletti said.
Perhaps Southern Illinois‘ biggest success in the game was controlling sophomore guard Reed Timmer’s scoring.
Timmer only recorded nine points on 4-12 shooting with four missed 3-pointers and four turnovers committed.
The Bulldogs are still a young team, with growth potential. This seems to be the theme of the season thus far. With a roster chalk full of freshman and sophomores, it’s a feat to go up against teams with players like on the level of Beane.
Looking forward, he Bulldogs will have just two more opportunities to earn a victory on their home court.
Drake will return to the Knapp Center tonight in a home game against the Evansville Purple Aces at 8 p.m. before closing their regular season on Feb. 27 against the Loyola Ramblers.
In between those games, the Bulldogs will have opportunities to improve their record on the road against Bradley and Missouri State. Both are located near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference standings.