Photo: Connor McCourtney
Led by freshman Rayvonte Rice and redshirt junior Kraidon Woods, the Bulldogs shut down the Titans late in the game to win their ESPN BracketBuster match 84-76 last Saturday.
Rice finished with 22 points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Woods contributed a career-high 13 points and six rebounds. Woods brought the crowd to its feet several times as he finished with five dunks.
“One of the coaches joked that that was a Knapp Center record,” Woods said.“Really, our guards just had great penetration against their defense, and it forced their bigs to step up, and I got a lot of easy dump-offs and easy dunks.”
Detroit led 71-70 with less than five minutes to go. Woods blocked a shot on the defensive end and then finished with a layup on the other end, giving Drake the lead for good at 72-71. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Clarke came up with two big steals on defense and the Bulldogs hit some key shots down the stretch as they closed out the game on a 14-5 run.
“The way we finished the last four minutes I thought was the most impressive part of the game,” head coach Mark Phelps said. “We got stops, we got turnovers…and then we hit big shots in our end.We were at our best at the end of the game, when we needed to be.”
The Bulldogs improved their record to 12-16 overall in their last non-conference match of the season.
It was a scintillating performance by Drake, who matched Detroit’s athleticism dunk-by-dunk and withstood the Titans’ fast-break game and showed some transition offense of its own.
The Bulldogs got off to a hot start thanks in large part to Rice, who scored 16 points in the first half. Rice scored seven quick points to give the Bulldogs an early 10-3 lead.
Drake was able to penetrate the Titan defense and that opened up its 3-point shooting. The Bulldogs shot 57.7 percent from the field and went 5-for-11 from long range in the first half.
However, in the second half, it appeared the game was slipping away from the Bulldogs. With Drake leading 47-38, the Titans went on a 14-3 run to take their first lead of the game. Detroit began pushing the ball and found its rhythm offensively by continuing to score on fast-break opportunities.
After exchanging leads in the second half, the Bulldogs clamped down on defense and went on a big run to close out the game.
“In those times in the past we haven’t been able to finish out,” Phelps said. “But we really battled, really competed and got back in the game.”
The Bulldogs got a big boost from their bench, as it chipped in 30 points. Woods was not the only one that impressed off the bench. Junior transfer Kurt Alexander finished with 10 points and four assists, and played a huge role in keeping up with the Titans’ fast-paced game.
“Our roster is real deep,” Rice said. “Coach [Phelps] has done a great job recruiting, and players are going to come out and play every game we can and play team basketball.”
Fifth-year senior Ryan Wedel contributed 14 points and five rebounds and sophomore Ben Simons scored all 10 of his points in the second half.
Drake shot 56 percent from the field and went 8-for-18 from behind the arc. The Bulldogs were outrebounded 33-24 in the game but won the turnover battle as they capitalized on 23 points off of Titans turnovers.
The Bulldogs will host Evansville this Wednesday in what will be their last home game of the season before heading to Bradley this Saturday to close out their conference season.
Evansville is sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference at 8-8, one spot ahead of the Bulldogs who are 6-10 in conference play. The Purple Aces defeated Drake 67-51 in their first meeting of the season on Jan. 12.
Last Saturday, Drake shot 56 percent from the field and poured 84 points on Detroit in its second-best offensive output this season. Here’s a look at some of the players who made that happen:
Rayvonte Rice: 22 points,
Ryan Wedel: 14 points,
3-of-7 from beyond the arc
Kraidon Woods: 13 points,
6-of-8 from the field
Ben Simons: 10 points,
Kurt Alexander: 10 points,
4-of-4 from the free throw line
Team: 21 assists on 28 field goals
44.4 percent on 3-pointers
83.3 percent from
free throw line