STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
Men’s Basketball continued their upward ascent in the Missouri Valley Conference as they defeated Missouri State who fell to 10-18 overall and 4-12 in conference play on Sunday by a score of 78-43. The victory became Drake’s fifth win in eight games.
“This group has refocused, taken each day one at a time and they have gotten better,” coach Ray Giacoletti said. “A lot of groups would have splintered, but these guys have listened and bought into our system.”
On senior day five players were recognized, four of whom hit the ground running in the lineup.
Senior guard Gary Ricks Jr. got the Bulldogs off to the right start, hitting back-to-back threes to open the game. The Bulldogs and the Bears traded baskets back-and-forth through the first six minutes of the game. A 10-0 Drake run gave the Bulldogs a cushion that they would never relinquish.
“We’ve come a long way this season,” Ricks said. “I’m extremely proud of this team.”
After that run, the Bulldogs soon followed the 10-0 streak with a 15-4 run before heading into the locker room up, 35-14.
The Bulldogs were led by Ricks and freshman Reed Timmer with 11 points each at the halfway mark. Drake’s defense held Missouri State to a 23.1 shooting percentage from the field as well. By contrast, Drake hit 14 of their 25 shots, shooting 56 percent from the field.
“I hang my hat on the defensive end, and we were able to hold that end down,” guard Karl Madison said after the game.
The second half began much like the first and Missouri State was never able to trim the deficit to less than 21 points. The Bulldogs were buoyed early on in the half by Ricks who drained three consecutive three pointers to give Drake a 24 point lead with 14:51 remaining in the half.
A trio of Bulldogs stepped up when Ricks got a break, as Timmer, Trevor Berkeley and Jacob Enevold Jensen each poured in a series of baskets to lead the Bulldogs.
“Jacob (Enevold) has all the tools, and all this experience is going to pay off in the next couple of years,” Giacoletti said.
Only the play of Bears players Chris Kendrix and Camyn Boone kept the game within the range, as they combined for 25 of the team’s 43 points.
Each senior was pulled out to a standing ovation as the game wound down until there was just Jordan Daniels left. He ended the game with the ball in his hands as the Bulldogs ran out the final seconds on the way to victory.
Ricks ended up as the leading scorer of the game with 20 points on seven of 12 shooting, making six three pointers. Right behind was Timmer who had 17 to go along with a team high seven rebounds. Jensen and Chris Caird ended up with 10 points apiece.
As a team, the Bulldogs shot 52 percent from the field and 62 percent from three. They were also seven of seven from the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs remain home for their final game of the season on Wednesday as the Loyola Ramblers come into town before March Madness sets in. Both teams currently sit at 6-10 in the MVC as they battle for the sixth spot in the conference at the conclusion of the regular season. That game is slated to start at 7:05 p.m.