Wedel pushes Drake past ISU
Photo: File Photo
The Drake Bulldogs went 1-1 in conference play this past week. Last Tuesday, the Bulldogs snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating Illinois State at home.
Led by a season-high 22-point performance from fifth-year senior Ryan Wedel, Drake was able to hold on after squandering a 21-point lead to defeat the Redbirds, 76-68.
“What we needed was an early spark,” head coach Mark Phelps said. “I think that’s what he gave us more than anything.”
Freshman Rayvonte Rice contributed a game-high eight rebounds to go along with 17 points. The Bulldogs, who were playing without their injured sophomore center Seth VanDeest, got a lift on the boards with help from Rice. Junior transfer Kraidon Woods got the start and finished with seven points and seven boards.
A couple of 11-0 runs at the beginning of each half gave Drake some breathing room. However, the Redbirds kept fighting back.
After taking their largest lead at 62-41 with over 10 minutes to go, Illinois State went on a 27-11 run to pull within five with 43 seconds left. But the Bulldogs were able to hit their free throws to close out the victory.
“We really got off to a good start on both ends of the floor,” VanDeest said. “We shared the ball really well on offense and our rebounding showed a lot of improvement.”
The Bulldogs, who have struggled with rebounding this season, were only outrebounded 32-30 by the Redbirds.
Drake was 11-from-18 from behind the arc and shot 51.1 percent from the field. The Bulldogs certainly needed a strong shooting performance to get back in the winning column.
“It was huge for us to get back on the right track and come out with a win,” VanDeest said. “Any time you can get a conference win it is something to be proud of.”
The Bulldogs went into the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls carrying some momentum, but that changed when the Panthers shot the ball from long range.
Propelled by 12 three-pointers and a stifling defense, Northern Iowa cruised to an easy 69-49 victory over the Bulldogs.
“They really knocked it down,” Phelps said. “They’re shooting really well right now.”
After starting the game with a nice 5-0 spurt, Drake did not have a lead for the rest of the game and did not even come close to threatening the hot-shooting Panthers. Northern Iowa took a comfortable 35-18 advantage heading into the half and then controlled the game in the second half, outscoring Drake 34-31 to finish off the win.
“They made their run in the first half, and we didn’t respond,” Phelps said. “They had a tremendous amount of momentum going into halftime.”
Not only did the Panthers punish Drake with their crisp ball movement and three-point shooting, but they made life miserable on the offensive end for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs were not able to penetrate the Panther defense and this led to extended possessions that resulted in desperate long-range shots trying to beat the shot clock buzzer.
And even though Drake shot 51.1 percent from the field, the Bulldogs had 19 turnovers that led to 34 points for the Panthers.
“The Valley is a really tough league and for a young team it can be challenging,” VanDeest said. “Every game you have to bring your best effort or you’re going to get beat.”
Leading the Bulldogs was VanDeest, who returned from injury to post a team-high 10 points and six rebounds. Rice finished the game with 10 points and four assists. Wedel chipped in five points.
The loss dropped Drake’s record to 8-12 overall and the Bulldogs are now eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 3-6 mark.
“We want to keep improving. That’s our only focus, is to improve and get better every day, and the rest will take care of itself,” VanDeest said.
The Bulldogs will take on Missouri State this Tuesday at the Knapp Center. Missouri State is currently leading the MVC.