ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM ROGAN
The Drake Men’s Basketball season came to an end last night in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
The seventh-ranked Bradley Braves stifled Drake’s no. 10 offense. The game ended 67-58, tying Drake’s third-lowest scoring performance of the season.
Transfer-juniors De’Antae McMurray and T.J. Thomas paced the Bulldogs in the final game of their first seasons in Drake blue. McMurray led the team with 13 points and four assists. Thomas followed with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Junior Reed Timmer was the only other Bulldog in double-digits. He finished with 11 points on 2-9 shooting.
Last week, interim head coach Jeff Rutter had emphasized the team’s need to stay competitive rebounding-wise. Drake did just that, finishing with two more boards than Bradley: 38-36.
The biggest problem the Bulldogs ran into was making shots from the floor, just as they have all season — Drake’s shooting percentage was second worst in the MVC.
The Bulldogs shot only 32.8 percent from the floor in what will be their only game of the conference tournament. From 3-point land they went 4-22, below 20 percent.
Three Bulldogs didn’t make a single shot from the field: sophomore Billy Wampler (0-5), sophomore Nick McGlynn (0-5) and redshirt-junior Graham Woodward (0-6).
After the Braves got ahead six-and-a-half minutes into the first half they didn’t relinquish it, although the lead was never more than nine. Bradley couldn’t quite put Drake away, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to get “over the hump” that Rutter had mentioned in a pregame press conference on Feb. 28.
The difference was trimmed to two twice in the second half, but was never any closer than that. That’s why the Braves will take on Wichita State on March 3, and Drake will be returning to Des Moines.
The Bulldogs’ final record for the season is 7-24, the exact same as their 2015-16 record. Their conference ranking is the same as well: 10th.
Drake will only be losing one senior, center Jacob Enevold, to graduation this year. The native Dane averaged 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his four years with the Bulldogs.
Next season, the Bulldogs will be top-heavy with at least six seniors on the roster: Ore Arogundade, McMurray, C.J. Rivers, Thomas, Timmer and Woodward.
Even if experience is likely for the 2017-18 Bulldog team, who will lead it is still in question.
According to a Drake Athletics press release sent out earlier this week, a national search for long-term head coaching candidates is underway.
Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb said in the press release that Rutter is a frontrunner to keep the job.