Story by Luke Nankivell
Photos by Joel Venzke
Before the game, Drake’s three seniors, center Seth VanDeest, guard Richard Carter and forward Aaron Hawley, were honored for Senior Day.
“What Seth has meant to this team over the last five years,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti, “It’s gratifying he can walk out of here winning the last one in the Knapp Center.”
Hawley played like it was his last game in the Knapp, and led the team in both points and rebounds.
He finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Carter finished with 18 points and seven assists. VanDeest was strong on the glass, pulling in seven rebounds to go along with his four points.
Freshman center Jacob Enevold finished the night with his strongest all-around performance, scoring 11 points and grabbing four rebounds.
“We’ve got a pretty special big guy for the next four years,” Giacoletti said.
The win wasn’t an easy one for the Bulldogs.
Drake found itself in a hole early, and with just under 5:30 left in the first half, the Bulldogs were down by 12. Drake pulled within single digits, but the Braves went into the locker room with an 11-point lead.
The Bulldogs came out after halftime on a mission.
By the first media timeout of the half, Drake cut the lead to just four. From there, the two teams traded the lead until Drake got breathing room in the final seconds of the game.
Carter hit a floater to put the Bulldogs up by three. After a missed shot by Bradley and a quick foul, Carter went to the free throw line and hit a pair of shots to seal the deal.
“The first thing I talked about was how appropriate it is for this team, because nothing’s come easy for this team,” Giacoletti said. “Having to dig it out on Senior Night made it more special, to be honest with you.”
In the second half, the Bulldogs shot 93.3 percent from the charity stipe, missing just one shot of 15 the whole half.
As for the rest of Drake’s shooting performance, it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, Drake shot 45.5 percent, while allowing the Braves to hit 57.7 percent of their shots.
The Bulldogs were able to build on their early run in the second half to keep Bradley to 31 percent from the field while hitting 54 percent of their own.
After the game, the three seniors reflected on their time in the Knapp Center in front of the fans.
“The fans are excellent here,” Carter said.
“It’s special to go out there and get a win for them,” VanDeest said.
“It’s fun and special,” Hawley said. “I think we’ll be able to look back at that and smile.”
Drake finished the season at 15-15, and had a conference record of 6-12.
The Bulldogs now shift their focus their attention to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
The No. 8 Bulldogs play No. 9 Evansville on Thursday in St. Louis at 6:05 p.m.
The winner of that game will face undefeated Wichita State on Friday at 12:05 p.m.