BY JD PELEGRINO
The Bulldogs hosted the Southern Illinois University Salukis Tuesday night at the Knapp Center. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs fell short to the Salukis 78-67. After losing the last three games, Coach Niko Medved and the Dogs are now competing to climb the standings in the Missouri Valley Conference. Currently, Drake is in fourth place in the conference but almost even with fifth place Illinois State.
Drake took the early lead in the contest but could not hold onto it for long. The Salukis soon claimed the lead and held onto it for the remaining 14 minutes of the first half. It took the Bulldogs less than four minutes into the second half to reclaim the lead and overcome a 12-point deficit.
“Drake has the unique capability of getting behind and coming back,” SIU’s head coach Barry Hinson said.
Hinson went on to explain how Drake is such a prolific scoring team from all spots on the floor and press defense is important to stop them. The Bulldogs battled back throughout the game, causing many lead changes and Saluki frustration.
Guard Reed Timmer connected on 3-6 shots from behind the arc during his 33 minutes, managing a team high of 22 points. Forward Nick McGlynn went 8-9 on free throws, contributing 12 points for the Bulldogs. McGlynn also grabbed 10 rebounds in a double-double performance. Other helpful contributions came from guards De’Antae McMurray (32 minutes, 9 points), Ore Arogundade (28 minutes, 9 points) and Graham Woodward (25 minutes, 9 points).
The Bulldogs only turned the ball over two more times than the Salukis did, which can often lead to drastic score changes. However, Drake only shot 38.5 percent from the field compared to SIU’s 50.9 percent. A typically “prolific scoring offense” did not appear to be clicking on all cylinders.
Where the game really changed was down under the hoop. SIU collected 38 rebounds by the end of the game and Drake only managed 25. With those 13 extra opportunities on offense, the Salukis capitalized consistently, giving them a convincing lead by the end of the game.
“I thought we really were careless with the ball in transition tonight,” Medved said. “I think we tried to do a little bit too much at times.”
Several times throughout the game the ball was turned over on fast breaks. Coach Medved credited the team for having many looks on the offensive side of the ball, but it all comes down to execution and the team didn’t finish all of their plays.
Timmer was asked how the team would preserve the great season they’ve built so far.
“We’ve been through it before and I think, these guys in the locker room, we can get our heads on straight,” Timmer said.
This season has proven to be superior to last year when the Bulldogs finished 7-24 (5-13 in conference). Drake is currently 12-12 (6-5 in conference), winning almost twice as many games as last season and posting a .500 record thus far.
The Bulldogs will be on the road for their next two games against Bradley (16-7, 6-4 in conference) and Loyola Illinois (18-4, 8-2 in conference). Both games are conference games and Bradley and Loyola are both ahead of Drake. The Bulldogs return home to play Northern Iowa (11-11, 3-7 in conference) on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 3 p.m.