Opinion by Eric Hartmann
Despite his speed and ball handling skills, guard Richard Carter can settle for too many jump shots and could be a better free throw shooter.
Forward Aaron Hawley has been caught out of position on defense countless times.
After three or four fast paced minutes, Seth VanDeest probably needs a breather on the bench.
Yet, these seniors were unquestionably three key players and the most motivated athletes on Ron Pearson Court when the Bulldogs defeated Bradley on Saturday’s Senior Day game.
At the beginning of the second half, Drake got a defensive stop and found its speedy point guard, Carter, to spark the Drake rally. Carter weaved through defenders down the court, got to the rim, got fouled, and made a layup for an old-fashioned three-point play.
On the next Drake possession, Carter made two free throws. VanDeest bullied his way into good position for a nice hook shot on the ensuing offensive possession.
Two Hawley free throws followed by a Carter layup and Drake had suddenly cut an 11-point halftime deficit into a two-possession game.
After the Bulldogs battled back into the game, their senior players determinedly guided them to a victory.
Hawley evened the game at 44 on a tough two-point jumper from the top of the key.
Carter followed with two nice assists around the 10-minute mark of the second half, the second of which sparked Hawley’s spurt of eight points.
VanDeest, who has struggled from the line all season, made two free throws, including the front end of a key one-and-one, to put the Bulldogs ahead 58-57.
In the closing minutes, Carter was the key player. He scored on an acrobatic runner in the lane to put Drake up 69-66.
He leaped over two much larger Bradley forwards and snagged a very important defensive rebound after Auston Barnes’ last-ditch attempt to tie the game from three. Then, Carter sank two free throws to ensure Bradley would return to Peoria with a loss.
I am no basketball coach, but I am fairly certain Coach Giacoletti was quite satisfied with the second-half adjustments his team made on Saturday, as well as the leadership of his seniors on the court.
In the second half, his team played to its strengths, and played tough Drake basketball — they Bulldogs rebounded well, and they played tough, smart defense that led to transition offense.
Additionally, Giacoletti’s seniors played to their individual strengths. Hawley scored 23 points. The forward made five 3-pointers, scored efficiently and led the team with eight rebounds. VanDeest snagged seven boards, was efficient from the floor, blocked two shots and hit his two free throw attempts.
Carter slashed his way to the rim all game, and produced 18 points, 10 free throw attempts and dished seven assists.
This Bulldog team was picked by sportswriters to finish 10th out of 10 Missouri Valley teams.
This game could be used to show why the Bulldogs were picked so low. It was not an easy win — Giacoletti chose to call two timeouts in the first half because he was not at all pleased with the defensive effort against a fairly mediocre Bradley team.
Yet the Bulldogs’ resilience as a team in the second half shows how they defied expectations — not just in this game, but throughout the season.
The Bulldogs tallied 15 wins and capped off the regular season with a big Senior Day win.
Their seniors set the tone, rebounded well, played smart, tough defense, and the team responded with a season that should give Drake fans hope for a bright future on the basketball court.
Hartman is a senior politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org