Photo by Muhamad Suhaimi
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM ROGAN
After two narrow losses, Drake Men’s Basketball picked up its first victory of the season over in-state opponents the Simpson College Storm by a score of 76-61 in the Knapp Center.
Simpson, a division-III school, had been showing opposite form entering the game. The Storm started their season with a pair of wins by a combined margin of 34 points.
Throughout the first period, the two teams appeared evenly matched.
The Storm utilized a tightly packed zone on defense, which led to Drake attempting 10 threes in the first half, only one of which was made.
“A credit to (the Storm), they were going to make us hit our shots,” Giacoletti said. “And we weren’t able to do it early.”
Although the Bulldogs never held a lead larger than six points in the first, they were still ahead for more than 15 of the first 20 minutes.
Moving the ball and scoring inside the arc proved to be an issue as Simpson’s defense stifled Drake’s forwards and centers with physicality, but also led to an abundance of penalties.
Halfway through the first half, Drake had already drawn nine fouls and made seven of 11 free throws. At the time, Simpson still hadn’t made it to the charity stripe. By the end of the half, Drake was 11-19 at the line. Simpson was a meager 2-4.
“Simpson did a good job locking it in and not allowing us to use our size,” head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “… There were five (defenders) inside 15 feet and (we) simply had to knock some shots down.”
At halftime, Drake was up 28-22.
In the first five minutes of the second, junior Reed Timmer had eight, six of them coming on threes. A three from junior C.J. Rivers, a layup from redshirt-junior Graham Woodward and a Billy Wampler free throw helped extend Drake’s lead to 17, its biggest lead of the game at that point.
“We started out the second half with the spark we needed,” junior Ore Arogundade said.
The Storm closed the gap quickly, capitalizing on a pair of missed Drake 3-pointers and a turnover to score seven straight points. But Drake responded with a 7-0 run of its own with a little more than 10 minutes left.
The Bulldogs slowly extended their lead as the clock drained, led by Arogundade who scored six of his 14 points in the final six minutes.
“Once we got a couple (shots) to go down then we were able to spread them out a little bit and be able to try to use our size to get some baskets inside,” Giacoletti said.
Drake’s points in the paint went from 12 in the first half to 16 in the second. 3-point shooting improved as well, going from 10 percent in the first to almost 40 in the second.
“Once you see the ball go in, confidence goes up,” Timmer said.
Giacoletti still wasn’t looking particularly confident after the win. Even if the offense picked up in the second half, the defense still struggled.
The Storm shot over 50 percent from the field in the second and tied Drake with 28 points in the paint, despite facing a serious height disadvantage. Simpson only has one player taller than 6-7. Drake has six above that mark.
Simpson’s 6-5 forward Sam Amsbaugh scored 12, many of which came while he was being guarded by redshirt-sophomore Nick McGlynn, who is three inches taller.
Although McGlynn tied his career high with 11 points, he lagged in other areas. He didn’t have a single rebound and Giacoletti was unhappy with his defensive performance.
“In 10 minutes you need to have a couple rebounds, but I’m more worried (about him) doing the right things defensively,” Giacoletti said. “I know (Amsbaugh) got catches, so that’s where my disappointment is at.”
Still, other big men made an impact.
The Bulldogs dominated on the boards, 48-31. Drake finished with 12 offensive rebounds, but only scored 14 second-chance points.
Redshirt-sophomore Kory Kuentsling started at center and finished with four points and nine rebounds, a career-high.
Transfer-junior forward T.J. Thomas made his presence felt in just seven minutes on the court. In his first minute he’d already stripped a Storm ballhandler, recorded a block and pulled down a rebound.
The Bulldogs will travel northward next weekend for the GCI Great Alaska Shootout over Thanksgiving Break. They will play a trio of matches, the first of which will be against Iona College on Nov. 24, a game that is set to be televised on the CBS Sports Network.