Photos by Adam Rogan
BY ADAM ROGAN
Drake Men’s Basketball (11‑19, 5-9 MVC) lost its fifth straight game over the weekend as poor shooting and worse-than-usual defense doomed the Bulldogs at home and on the road.
It was close at halftime at least.
Drake gave up its chance to upset the no. 2 team in the Missouri Valley Conference when it suffered one of the team’s worst halves of the season.
The Illinois State Redbirds (21‑5, 13-1 MVC) held a three-point lead at halftime, but controlled the Bulldogs on both sides of the court in the final 20 minutes. Final score: ISU 82, Drake 53.
“It was a bad half that we had,” head coach Jeff Rutter said. “It doesn’t mean we have to have a bad season.”
Illinois State has just one conference loss this season and is the only MVC team to defeat Wichita State. Their defense currently ranked 10th in the NCAA and best in the MVC with only 61.7 points against per game. They also rebound second best in the conference, again behind Wichita State. They are no. 1 in blocked shots and steals, major de-motivators for opposing offenses.
Drake hung around in the first half by shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 33.3 from three. At the break, the score was 37-34.
And then it got ugly. Fast.
After holding a one-point lead a little over a minute into the second half, Drake’s defense was dismantled just as quickly as its offense fell apart.
In the final 18-and-a-half minutes, the Redbirds outscored the Bulldogs 45-15.
“We hit a cold stretch. They hit a hot stretch,” Rutter said. “Game, set, match. It’s as simple as that.”
There wasn’t a single major stat that the Bulldogs won in the second half.
And worst of all, shooting percentage: 18.2-69.2.
Nothing seemed to fall for the Bulldogs. Illinois State went on a 20-0 run over 6:14 in the second half. Drake missed 10 consecutive shots during that span.
One of the major changes was the Redbirds pressing through much of the second half, a strategy they’d used sparingly in the first.
“(Illinois State had) really suffocating defense,” sophomore Billy Wampler said. “They were really long and athletic and are one of the best defensive teams in the country for a reason.”
Wampler paced the Bulldogs with 12 points on the night, but all of them came in the first half. In the second half, Wampler went 0-3 and the team shot only 6-33, below 20 percent overall.
“We probably lost some steam,” Rutter said. “But credit to them. Shoot, man, they put the ball in the hole. They had a hot hand.”
That “hot hand” belonged to senior Paris Lee who scored 26 for the Redbirds, a personal season high.
To add injury to the rout, redshirt-junior A.J. Rutter tore his ACL in his first minute on the court. It’s the third time he’s suffered the injury on the same knee, the first two tears occurring when he was still in high school. He will be out for the rest of the season.
“It’s ironic, the timing of A.J.’s injury and us coming off of a bad half,” coach Rutter said. “How could our guys not come out and give a great effort (going forward)? He’ll overcome this as he has before and our team will overcome this as they have before, too.”
Drake lost its fifth straight game to the Indiana State Sycamores in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Indiana State (10-16, 4-10 MVC) took a 10-8 advantage four minutes in and never gave it up. Within three minutes, the lead was 11. Drake would never get closer than eight after that, going on to lose 84-60.
Even though the Bulldogs are more guard-focused, they still performed terribly down low. They were outscored 44-12 in the paint and outrebounded 44-38.
The Sycamores also distributed the ball much more effectively with 22 assists, doubling Drake’s total of 11.
Three Bulldogs scored in double-digits. Timmer had 15, Wampler finished with 14 and McMurray contributed 10.
Drake played against Evansville on the road last night. That game started after The Times-Delphic went to print.
Currently sitting at 6-7, the Bulldogs will look to even its home record against Missouri State (15-11, 6-7 MVC) on Friday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Before the losing streak, Drake’s last win came on the road against Missouri State, a 72-71 overtime thriller.