In the second meeting in less than a week between Drake and the Missouri State Bears, the Bulldogs were unable to bring home the comeback win in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis (i.e. Arch Madness). Drake fell to the Bears 67-69 at the Scottrade Center on Thursday night, sealing their postseason fates and ending the season for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs put forth a resounding effort against the Bears, which was strikingly similar to their last meeting, a 61-52 come-from-behind, home win for Missouri State. This time though, the Bulldogs fell behind in the first half. After the first 20 minutes, the deficit was in double-digits, 40-30.
The second half, however, is where the Bulldogs seem to be finding their momentum as of late. They came out seeking vengeance. An early 3-pointer by Graham Woodard set off what would become a 13-2 run for the Bulldogs.
Ore Arogundade landed a layup that put Drake ahead by one, 43-42, with 16 minutes left to play.
Thereafter, it was a constant back and forth. A jumper by senior Karl Madison would tie the game at 50-50, with 12 minutes left in the game.
However, Madison’s bucket was followed by a 12-3 run for the Bears, putting them ahead by nine with seven minutes left of play.
But, the Bulldogs being as resilient as they have been against the Bears this season, were able to close the gap in those minutes. Another lead change came off a rebound and assist from freshman Casey Schlatter to Reed Timmer who made a layup off the fastbreak, leaving the score at 66-64 with just under two minutes remaining.
The Bears were able to land a shot from three-point land to put them ahead by one,
Consecutive turnovers by Dominick Olejniczak and Timmer led to an intentional foul and a trip to the charity stripe for Missouri State.
Bears’ senior Loomis Gerring sunk both free throws to extend his team’s lead to three.
Woodward earned a trip to the free throw line on the next possession. He made the first and missed the second and the Bears grabbed the rebound.
Chris Kendrix, a Missouri State sophomore, missed both free throws after another foul, but the Bulldogs were unable to convert on the ensuing possession.
The game, and Drake’s season, was over by a final score of 69-67.
In the final game for the Bulldogs this season, they shot an astounding 60 percent in the second half, 48 overall. Olejniczak, who has been a key player in Drake’s last three games, had a career-high 18 points, eight rebounds and one block. Timmer put up 12 points, seven rebounds and finished 2-3 from the arc.
The story of the game however, was looks from the arc. The Bulldogs went 5-15 overall, while the Bears shot 10-20, 5-9 in the second half, which is what ultimately gave the Bears the win in this neck-and-neck affair.
Even if Drake finished the season with the worst record in the conference (2-16 MVC) and were 17 games below .500 (7-24), the Bulldogs seem to have found some sort of momentum in their last few games.
Over the last six games of the season, the Bulldogs’ offense was only held to less than 60 points once and never lost by more than nine, an improvement over the early conference season. At that rate, the Bulldogs would improve next year and have a better chance of advancing in Arch Madness, something they haven’t done since 2013.
If nothing else, the close games the Bulldogs were in and the fight they showed can surely translate into one thing for them in the coming 2016-17 season – wins.