STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
The Drake Men’s Basketball team ran their winning streak to a season-high three games on Wednesday before getting cut down three days later.
Before the streak ended the Bulldogs earned their third victory in a row thanks to a 3-pointer from Chris Caird on Wednesday night against the Southern Illinois Salukis.
Caird sunk the game-winner with 4.3 seconds remaining in the game to give Drake their first three-game conference winning streak in the Ray Giacoletti era.
The big shot was all by design and Coach Giacoletti was thrilled.
“The timing was impeccable, and Chris got a great look and knocked it down,” Giacoletti said.
Even Caird, normally a relatively stoic individual, was ecstatic after the game.
“My teammates and coaches had confidence in me in the timeout and I knew the ball was coming to me,” Caird said. “We got a great screen and I got a great pass on the money.”
The game was as tight as any that the Bulldogs have played this season as neither team led by any more than six throughout the entire game.
The Bulldogs poured in a season high 13 3-pointers to guide them to victory. Two of the 13 threes were contributed by Reed Timmer, who continued a hot stretch with 19 total points on the night, averaging 17.3 points during the streak.
Joining him in double figures were Caird and Gary Ricks Jr., who each had 12.
“It’s February now, and all of our roles have been established,” Timmer said. “It’s a great way to win.”
However, Northern Iowa had other plans for Drake’s streak. Playing at home in Cedar Falls, the Panthers shot 64.1 percent from the field and 55 percent from beyond the arc to cool off the Bulldogs 69-53.
The 16-point margin was established in the first half, with the Bulldogs matching the Panthers in the final 20 minutes.
Led by Timmer’s 10, the freshman class scored almost half of Drake’s points in the game, 26 of the 53.
“It’s good to see that group continue to get better,” Giacoletti said. “They played probably their best collective game of the season.”
Northern Iowa rode an 11-0 run behind three 3-pointers to get out to an early lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the game, shooting 12 of 18 from deep in the first half. UNI just had to focus on maintaining the lead from there on out.
Drake was able to chip away slightly at times, narrowing the margin to eight at one point, but the Panthers slowed down the tempo and coasted to the finish. Drake falls to 7-17 overall and 4-8 in the Valley, while UNI moves on to 22-2 and 11-1 in conference play, now ranked 13th in the country.
Drake returns home on Wednesday night as Bradley comes to town. The Bulldogs then go on the road to face Indiana State and Evansville.