New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines was too much for Drake to handle last Saturday, and the Aggies overwhelmed the Bulldogs in the BracketBuster contest in Las Cruces, N.M.
New Mexico State (20-8, 7-3 WAC), which is second in the Western Athletic Conference, dealt Drake (15-13, 8-8 MVC) a 71-55 loss. McKines had 25 points and 12 rebounds.
This one was never really close. The Aggies led by 10 for most of the first half and stretched their lead to as much as 21 in the second half.
Sophomore Rayvonte Rice led Drake with 18 points and five rebounds. Junior Aaron Hawley, who started his fifth game for the inactive junior Ben Simons, added 14 points and six rebounds.
“There were times where it looked like a man against a boy,” head coach Mark Phelps said. “They certainly had a lot of size, a lot of girth, a lot of bulk.”
New Mexico State was ranked No. 74 in the Ratings Percentage Index coming into the game. It ranked 23rd in the nation in scoring (77.7 points per game) and 14th in rebounding (39.6 per game). The Aggies out-rebounded the Bulldogs 40-31. McKines entered the game averaging 18.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, both tops in the WAC.
“They’re one of the leading teams in the nation at getting to the free throw line,” Phelps said. “They’re a very, very physical team and a very good basketball team.”
Drake shot just 34 percent from the field while New Mexico State fired 48 percent from the floor. The Aggies sank 53.8 percent of their 3-point attempts. The Bulldogs were just 12-of-23 from the free throw line.
Last Wednesday, Drake survived a late Bradley run to defeat the Braves 62-55 in Peoria, Ill.
The Bulldogs built an 18-point lead, but they missed key free throws down the stretch to let Bradley back in the game. Drake did enough to close out the victory and reach .500 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Drake moved into a tie for fourth place with the win.
Bradley (7-22, 2-14 MVC) dropped deep into the Valley cellar with the loss. The Braves sit in last place and trail ninth-place Southern Illinois by three games.
Rice and senior Kurt Alexander had 15 points apiece in the contest. Hawley added 12 while junior Jordan Clarke contributed six points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Walt Lemon Jr. had a game-high 22 points to lead Bradley.
Drake is tied with Evansville and Illinois State for fourth in the Valley. Missouri State is one game ahead of those teams in third place. Northern Iowa and Indiana State trail the fourth-place trio by one game.
The Bulldogs’ final home game of the season is this Wednesday against Southern Illinois. The team will honor seniors Alexander and Kraidon Woods. Tip-off at the Knapp Center is set for 7:05 p.m.
Drake’s final regular season game is at Wichita State this Saturday. The Shockers have already clinched at least a share of the regular-season MVC title.