Photo: Connor McCourtney
With time winding down and Drake down 77-75 in overtime against Illinois State, freshman Rayvonte Rice pushed the ball up the court and found junior transfer Kurt Alexander in the corner. Alexander swooshed in a 3-pointer as time expired. The Bulldog bench exploded in jubilation. That feeling quickly evaporated when the officiating crew determined the ball was still in Alexander’s hands when the clock expired.
“I snuck a peek [at the replay] and there couldn’t be a lot of argument from me,” head coach Mark Phelps said. “The video doesn’t lie, but that’s a tough way to lose a basketball game.”
Alexander’s shot was waived off and Drake was left still looking for its first conference road win of the year. This time, the Bulldogs were able to fight back from a 32-23 halftime deficit, only to see their comeback attempt fall short.
“I don’t really think there’s a feeling you can describe it with,” sophomore Ben Simons said. “We thought Kurt had just made a great shot and got us a win on the road, and then to have them go to the monitor and then see them celebrate, it’s a tough feeling.”
The loss drops Drake’s record to 8-14 overall and to 3-8 in conference play. The Bulldogs have lost six of the past seven games.
Drake was able to take an early 13-4 lead, but then saw the Redbirds reel off 14 straight points. The Bulldogs shot only 32 percent from the field in the first half and they clearly missed Rice, who was plagued by early foul trouble.
“We had foul trouble in the first half which hurt us,” Simons said. “Two key guys, Rayvonte and Jordan [Clarke], were both in foul trouble. They got back in the second half and that really helped us out.”
Rice scored all of his 17 points in the second half and in the overtime period and also had six rebounds. Simons converted on four 3-point field goals and led all scorers with 18 points.
With nine minutes to go in the game, the Redbirds extended their lead to 56-43, the largest lead in the game. But unlike other road games, the Bulldogs were able to hang tough.
“One of the things we haven’t done well on the road is fight back,” fifth-year senior Ryan Wedel said. “We finally responded and started executing on the offensive end. We couldn’t get the stops we needed to win the game.”
Led by Rice’s second-half explosion and junior transfer Kraidon Woods, Drake went on a 26-10 run to take command of the game. Woods registered 10 points and nine rebounds, both career highs.
With the Bulldogs now leading 69-66 and time winding down, Illinois State sophomore Anthony Cousin was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. Cousin made all three of his free throws to send the game into overtime.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked in the beginning of the game and into the second half,” Simons said. “But we really fought down the stretch and battled back into to it. I think that’s one thing we can take from it and continue to build on.”
The Bulldogs traveled to Southern Illinois on Wednesday, and details from that game will be available in the next issue of The Times-Delphic. The team takes on Northern Iowa at home on Saturday at noon.
“We’ve got to come out and do the things we’ve been doing the past two games,” Simons said. “Playing hard, executing what we need to execute. Try to limit what they do and hopefully come out with a win.”
The Bulldogs have lost two very close contests in a row. But they are confident their improved play will soon translate to some wins.
“We played our best game Tuesday night and we came out and played our best game on the road [on Sunday],” Wedel said. “If we continue to play as hard as we did we can go on a run here late in the season.”