Five Bulldogs scored in double figures to lead Drake to an 83-58 rout over Upper Iowa in the team’s regular-season opener last Saturday at the Knapp Center.
A hot-shooting Drake squad made 51.8 percent of its field goals. Junior Aaron Hawley led the Bulldogs with 23 points and seven rebounds.
Redshirt junior Jordan Clarke, redshirt senior Kraidon Woods and redshirt sophomore David Smith all returned from injuries to give Drake more depth than in its exhibition loss to Quincy on Nov. 5, when only eight Bulldogs suited up.
Redshirt freshmen Karl Madison (13 points) and Jeremy Jeffers (15 points) had productive nights in their regular-season debuts. Jeffers was a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line while Madison added two assists.
“When you look at Karl (Madison) and see that he’s got 119, 120 more games left to be a Bulldog, it’s really excited what he did tonight,” head coach Mark Phelps said in a Drake Athletics press release.
Simons (12 points) moved back to his natural position on the wing. Against Quincy, he was forced to fill time at all five positions. Simons was 5-of-15 from the field and had five rebounds.
Clarke (11 points) returned to the starting lineup at power forward. He logged 23 minutes and had a team-high eight rebounds. He was 5-of-6 from the floor.
Drake pulled away from the Peacocks with 6:31 left in the first half, when the Bulldogs went on a 19-5 run. Hawley knocked down two 3-pointers during that stretch.
“Defense has been our focus for so long,” Hawley said. “Unfortunately, it took us that long to get going, but once we did, things turned around for us.”
Drake’s defense held Upper Iowa to just 14 field goals and 31.8 percent shooting. The Bulldogs dominated inside, outscoring the Peacocks 42-14 in the paint.
Upper Iowa center Tucker Wentzien led the team with 14 points and added six rebounds. Brad Arnold came off the bench to add 11 points.
It was the second-straight year in which Drake won its opening game of the season. The Bulldogs forced 16 Upper Iowa turnovers in this opener.
“There’s some things that we can build on,” Phelps said. “There’s some things we can teach from as well. We have to be a defensive team. We have to be a team that hangs its hat on the defensive end.”
For the second straight game, Madison fouled out. Tomorrow night, though, he will receive more help at the point guard position with the return of senior Kurt Alexander from suspension. Sophomore standout Rayvonte Rice will also return from a two-game suspension for the contest against Iowa State at 8 p.m. at the Knapp Center.
“The Cyclones have a lot of fire power on the offensive end,” Phelps said. “They can shoot it from three, they’ve got guys who can get in the paint, they have a low-post presence and they’re going to be a heck of a challenge.”
After tomorrow’s game, Drake heads to the island of St. Thomas this Friday for the Paradise Jam. The Bulldogs will take on Mississippi at 2:30 p.m., but the team’s schedule for the rest of the tournament is yet to be determined.
Before the Drake men take on Iowa State tomorrow, the Bulldog women’s squad will take on the Cyclones. The double-header at the Knapp Center starts at 5 p.m.