Led by a balanced scoring attack and a defense that forced 24 turnovers, Drake cruised to an 82-46 victory over Wisconsin-Parkside in its only exhibition match of the season.
Over 3,000 fans gathered to see the Bulldogs for the first time this season. With a roster that is significantly different from last year’s squad, Drake had an impressive debut.
Four Drake players scored in double figures, with redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Clarke leading all scorers with 16 points. Clarke also collected 13 rebounds.
“Jordan (Clarke) did a pretty good job in 22 minutes,” Head Coach Mark Phelps said in a Drake athletics press release. “It was nice for him to be doing what he has been doing in practice.”
Drake started out with a three-guard lineup which featured junior Frank Wiseler, fifth-year senior Ryan Wedel and freshman Rayvonte Rice. Clarke started at the forward position alongside sophomore center Seth VanDeest.
The Bulldogs started off the game on fire. Drake hit eight of its first 13 shots and used its defense to create easy transition baskets. Wisconsin-Parkside could never get into any rhythm offensively in the first half, as Drake never trailed and went into the break with a 46-17 lead.
“I thought this exhibition gave us exactly what we were looking for,” Phelps said. “I thought there were some bright spots and some areas where we need to improve.”
The Bulldogs continued to control the tempo in the second half and spread the ball around for their perimeter shooters. Eleven different players scored for Drake.
Junior transfer Kurt Alexander finished with 10 points and two assists off the bench in his first game for the Bulldogs. Rice, who many consider the prized prospect of the Valley’s top-ranked freshman class, did not disappoint either. He finished with 12 points and three rebounds.
It was an all-around performance for the revamped Bulldogs. Drake out-rebounded Wisconsin-Parkside 42-24, scored 32 points off of turnovers and shot an impressive 51.9 percent from the field.
“We do a good job of sharing the ball,” Clarke said. “Seth VanDeest passes well out of the post. Rayvonte is unselfish. Ryan (Wedel) is unselfish. Ben (Simons) is unselfish. Anyone can go off on any night. Nobody has a problem with it, either.”
The Bulldogs looked just as sharp on the opposite end of the floor. They held the Rangers to 37.3 percent shooting from the field. Drake also recorded five blocks and 12 steals.
“Our emphasis in practice has been to be a good defensive team,” Phelps said. “Playing man-to-man defense suits this team better. We want to continue to get better.”
VanDeest struggled with foul trouble in the first half and had a quiet game with seven points and three rebounds.
Wedel, the only senior on the team, finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Sophomore Reece Uhlenhopp had six points and six rebounds coming off the bench.
Up next for the Bulldogs is Texas Southern this Saturday. This will be the first official game of the season for Drake. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at the Knapp Center.
Photo: Emily Tozer