Photo: Connor McCourtney
Led by sophomore Ben Simons, the Bulldogs outlasted bitter rival Creighton 67-64 and held on to earn their third consecutive conference win.
Simons had an all-around game, leading the team with 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
“He did some things going to the basket,” head coach Mark Phelps said. “He used his length and his shooting ability. He really makes me happy.”
Playing in front of a raucous crowd of 4,552, Drake was trying to win three straight games for the first time this season.
Drake was able to pull away early in the first half and led by as many as 10 points. But the Bluejays kept chipping away and the Bulldogs headed into intermission with a 29-28 lead.
With the game tied at 49-49 in the second half, redshirt sophomore Jordan Clarke gave Drake the lead and it appeared the Bulldogs had taken control. They led by nine points with 2:28 left to play in the second half. But a couple of missed free throws and miscues let the Bluejays back into the game. Antoine Young scored Creighton’s final nine points to pull within 66-64 with five seconds to go.
Junior transfer Kurt Alexander hit one of his two free throws to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead. The Bluejays pushed the ball and Young got a shot off from half-court as the ball hit the backboard and the front rim before bouncing away.
With the win, the Bulldogs are now 11-14 on the year and 6-8 in conference play.
For the second consecutive game, Drake was able to put away a strong conference foe as it continued its recent surge. Last Saturday, the team defeated reigning Missouri Valley Conference champion Northern Iowa, 72-69. And on Tuesday night, they were able to outplay the favored Bluejays by shutting down their perimeter game and attacking the basket.
The Bulldogs stifled Creighton into a 4-of-22 performance from 3-point range and were able to constantly attack the rim. Drake went 19-of-25 from the charity stripe and the Bluejays were only 8-of-12.
Clarke played a great game defensively as he held Creighton’s star freshman Doug McDermott to just 2-of-9 from the field. McDermott had destroyed the Bulldogs with 28 points and 10 rebounds the first time around this season, a 73-57 Creighton victory on Jan. 1.
“We felt disrespected by some of the comments that [McDermott] made, talking about taking advantage of a less physical player,” Clarke said. “So we made it a point to be more physical. We know he’s a good player, but at the end of the day, it hurts when a freshman gets 28 and 10. We really didn’t even want him to catch it tonight.”
Freshman Rayvonte Rice had another great game as he contributed 16 points and six boards.
Sophomore Seth VanDeest was able to finally get some extended minutes as he has been struggling with injuries. VanDeest finished with 12 points and four rebounds in over 22 minutes.
This Saturday, Drake will hit the road and square off against Indiana State. The Bulldogs will try to split the season series as they lost the first meeting to the Sycamores 62-57 on Jan. 9.