STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
Drake kicked off the spring semester in style, winning two consecutive games against Missouri Valley foes Bradley and Evansville, improving to 6-16 overall and 3-7 in conference play.
“These last two games, our guys will be exhausted at the end of the night,” said Coach Ray Giacoletti after the Evansville game. “They gave their all and left everything on the court.”
The first game of the week took place on Wednesday night as the Bulldogs traveled to Bradley to take on the Braves in a bottom of the conference matchup. Drake took an early lead on a three pointer from Gary Ricks Jr. and didn’t look back. The Bulldogs were on top 41-31 at halftime, led by Reed Timmer’s 12 first half points.
Bradley closed the gap to seven in the second half, but never closer than that as the Bulldogs ran the table, leading from start to finish on the way to a 69-57 victory. Ricks and Timmer led the way with 15 points each, including six three pointers between the two. Jacob Enevold Jensen was right behind with 14 points, shooting six of seven from the field.
The Bulldogs returned home Saturday to face the third place Evansville Purple Aces. For the second time in a week the Bulldogs left the court victorious, this time on the heels of a 70-65 nail biter win that featured noteworthy performances from seniors and freshmen alike.
The Bulldogs were buoyed early on by two jumpers from Timmer and were able to keep the game close for the entire first half. Each team went on small scoring runs, but it was Drake who held the advantage at the half, 29-27.
Evansville’s DJ Ballentine, the MVC scoring leader, was held to only one of seven from the field at halftime, guarded almost exclusively by senior point guard Karl Madison.
“The team needed my best defense. We all know that Ballentine’s a great player, but we were able to keep him in check,” Madison said.
The second half featured multiple extended runs for both teams, as Drake went five minutes without a basket, but Evansville followed up with their own drought as the second half featured four lead changes. However, some big shots from Daniels, Jenson and Madison helped the Bulldogs pull away, never trailing in the final four minutes.
The Bulldogs hit 10 of their final 12 free throws to ice the game, winning 70-65.
Leading the way was Timmer, who finished with 18 points on five of 10 shooting. Not far behind was Ricks with 14. Madison ended up with nine points on the evening while holding Ballentine to six of 19 shooting.
“Karl did an amazing job,” Giacoletti said, “He played each possession like his last and did a great job getting around all the screens that Evansville set.”
Enevold Jensen contributed eight points despite being in foul trouble for most of the game. His replacement was Kory Kuentsling, playing 19 minutes and contributing a game high of six rebounds.
“Kory had his best game,” Giacoletti said, “He’s a guy who’s gotten better each game and held his own against the best rebounder in the Valley.”
While a two game winning streak is nice for Drake, the season is far from over. There is a lot of basketball yet to be played, and the Bulldogs expect to beat their best.
“Our best basketball is truly going to come in February. The last two games were just the start,” Timmer said.
Drake remains at home for their game tonight as the Southern Illinois Salukis come to town. Tip-off for the game will be at 7:05.