BY MATTHEW GOGERTY PHOTO BY MOHAMAD SUHAIMI
Drake men’s basketball started regular season play on Nov. 11 hosting South Dakota State University at the Knapp Center. SDSU took the win, 79-74, over the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs started the game on the defensive with the Coyotes converting on second-chance points in the first minute of the game.
Drake started behind early, facing a 5-1 deficit.
A steal by junior guard C.J. Rivers gave him a fast break and an easy layup to put the Bulldogs within two.
Then a good jumper by Rivers on an assist from sophomore Billy Wampler tied it up.
In one of his first games back since missing most last season with an injury, Rivers scored 10 points and shot 63 percent from the field, he also added three steals.
“I felt pretty confident coming in, had a good summer and a good couple weeks of practice before the season started,” Rivers said. “So I was pretty confident in my role and the game plan coming into today.”
Another SDSU foul put junior guard Reed Timmer on the charity stripe, where he successfully converted on two shots and gave the Bulldogs their first lead at 7-5.
A successful 3-pointer by Wampler on an assist from Woodard put the Bulldogs up by five.
The Coyotes went on a 7-0 run that put them up by four with 14 minutes left of play.
jumper by Timmer broke the run and a layup from sophomore forward Nick McGlynn tied the game up 14-14 with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Drake junior transfer student-athletes, who are in their first season with the Bulldogs, forward T.J. Thomas and guard De’Antae McMurray, gave the Bulldogs a 16-14 lead. McMurray found Thomas in transition and provided him with an assist that culminated in a slam-dunk.
The Bulldogs went on to lead for the rest of the first half, leading by as much as eight, and finishing the half with a six point lead.
Wampler hit another 3-point shot, his third of the night, to open up the second-half, giving the Bulldogs a nine-point lead.
The lead was short-lived, however.
The Coyotes were able to grab boards and score in transition, which brought them within one in the first four minutes of the half.
Drake kept their lead during a SDSU offense possession, but Timmer took it upon himself to take the ball into the paint. He was met by heavy defense and any shot opportunity was missed.
Thomas had Timmer’s back, however, and sent a message with a block when SDSU brought the ball back down court.
The Coyotes took the lead after being tied 58-58, with 10 minutes left of play.
After shooting better than 50 percent in the first, the Bulldogs shot 42 percent in the second, and equally so, a breakdown in defense, gave SDSU room to creat a six-point lead with five minutes left to play.
“They had a lot of tough shots late,” Timmer said. “To get to where we want to go we have to be able to go on the offensive and defensive boards, and just be able to secure rebounds and not let them get second-chance (points).”
The offensive momentum shift, and the Coyotes work from the boards, almost put this game out of reach for the Bulldogs.
A 3-point shot from the Coyotes Matt Mooney put them up by four, fouled on the way up, it gave them a chance from the charity stripe, where he missed.
With only a minute left to play, Timmer got a look from the 3-point land, but missed. Rivers grabbed the board and gave it right back to Timmer for a second chance at the same shot. As Rivers glared at the SDSU players, Timmer drained the 3-point shot.
“We came right back down and got a good look, but missed it,” Timmer said. “Second-chances are key for them and for us.”
Suspense built even further when the Coyotes turned the ball over on a travelling call. But, a missed 3-point opportunity for McMurray with only 10 seconds left of play solidified the SDSU lead.
With one more opportunity from the charity stripe, the Coyotes finished the game with a five point lead.
Despite the loss, the team remains in good spirits maintaining that they are better than last year, and there is more to come.
“We are drastically better. We’ve got different pieces, we’ve got some athleticism from T.J. that is going to help us and people haven’t seen De ‘Antae yet,” head coach Ray Giacolletti said. “Graham Woodard was good as he’s ever been tonight and C.J. Rivers was good as he’s ever been tonight.”
The Bulldogs played on the road last night against the University of Missouri-Kansas in a game that started after The Times-Delphic went to print.