At the beginning of the game, he was just a guy with a unique name. Now, Drake players may have nightmares about Dyricus Simms-Edwards.
The Bradley guard had 26 points and nine rebounds to lead the tenth-seeded Braves to a 63-48 win over the Bulldogs in the first round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Thursday night in St. Louis.
Bradley advances to the quarterfinals to face No. 2 seed Wichita State at 6 p.m. on Friday. Drake, the seventh seed, finishes the season at 13-18.
“We had two back-to-back tough offensive games,” head coach Mark Phelps said, whose Bulldogs lost to Bradley last Saturday 90-64 in the last game of the regular season. “Simms-Edwards was difficult to deal with all night long.”
Aside from Simms-Edwards and brief productive stints by Bradley’s Andrew Warren and Drake freshman Rayvonte Rice, Thursday’s game was far from one that demonstrated effective basketball. Both teams combined for 19-of-60 field goals in the first half. The Bulldogs had nine turnovers in the first 20 minutes and the Braves took a 27-22 lead into the break.
Things appeared to change at the start of the second half, as Rice exploded for eight quick points and Drake rushed out to a 35-31 lead. But Bradley responded with a 13-0 run, seven of which were tallied by All-MVC first-teamer Warren. Rice never scored again and Bradley raced to an insurmountable lead.
“Guys who were making shots all year long were just coming up short,” Phelps added. “I don’t really have a lot of answers for guys missing shots. I thought we had some pretty good looks.”
Rice had 13 points and four blocks to lead the Bulldogs, who also received 11 from senior guard Ryan Wedel. It was a difficult loss for Wedel, who struggled handling the ball and had four turnovers. Wedel’s strength is shooting the rock, but he did a tremendous job helping shoulder the load at point guard, contributing to the team in any way possible.
“It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to go out, and we didn’t win as many games as I hoped, but I gave it everything I had,” Wedel said. “I have no regrets regarding my career.”
Redshirt junior transfer Kraidon Woods had 13 rebounds for Drake. Warren, Bradley’s leading scorer, finished with 15 points.
The Bulldogs shot just 30.9 percent from the field and made only 2-of-17 from beyond the arc. Wedel was the only Drake player to convert a 3-point attempt. Bradley shot 52.9 percent from long range.
“As they were scoring, we weren’t scoring,” Phelps said. “We had a hard time keeping Simms-Edwards out of the paint and we didn’t get it done on the offensive end.”
Bradley scored 23 points off of 13 Drake turnovers, while the Bulldogs converted just five points off of seven Braves’ turnovers.
Rice also set the Drake freshman record for rebounds and field goals in a season, with 149 boards and 143 shots made. Last week, he set the Drake freshman scoring record.
Despite the early MVC tournament exit, the future looks bright for the Bulldogs. The team returns Rice and nearly all of the supporting cast, but Phelps said it will be extremely tough to replace the team’s lone senior, Wedel.
“Ryan [Wedel] has been an unbelievable ambassador to our basketball program. This wasn’t the way we wanted him to go out,” Phelps said. “I guarantee the contribution he made to our program will be evident for years to come, and we’re going to miss him.”