Bulldogs' Season Ends In CIT Second Round With Loss At Rice
HOUSTON--Four players scoring in double figures, led by sophomore Rayvonte Rice with a game-high 23 points, were not enough for the Drake Bulldogs on Saturday night, as they fell, 74-68, to the Rice Owls in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Owls' 53.1-percent shooting was too much to overcome for the Bulldogs, who end their season with a record of 18-16. No team had shot higher than 50 percent against Drake since Jan. 7, 2012 (Northern Iowa, 55.3%), a span of 19 games. Drake shot 38.9 percent. The Owls improve to 19-15.
The 34 games played this season were the most by a Drake men's basketball team in the history of the program.
"They were the better team tonight," Head Coach Mark Phelps said of Rice. "I'm really proud of our team, really proud of our seniors and really excited about next year. We lose two seniors and we bring a lot of guys back. We'll get some injured guys back, so we're excited about next year. It was a hard-fought game, and congratulations to Rice."
Drake's Rice (Champaign, Ill.) notched his eighth game with 20 or more points this season, 12th of his career, on 8-of-14 shooting from the field. He was 2-of-4 from three-point range and 5-of-7 from the foul line, in the process of breaking Drake's sophomore scoring record. He finished the season with 555 points, and now has more points than any Bulldog after his freshman and sophomore seasons (983).
Junior Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) scored 19 of his 21 points in the second, including three three-pointers on seven attempts. Senior Kurt Alexander (Toronto, Ontario) scored 13 points in his final game as a Bulldog, and redshirt-freshman Jeremy Jeffers (Wilson, N.C.) added 11.
Jeffers finished the season ranked sixth on the Bulldogs' freshman scoring list with 243 points.
Junior Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, third game in a row in double figures in that category, and 10th of the season.
The Bulldogs led 35-32 at halftime after closing the first 20 minutes on an 11-2 run to erase a 30-24 deficit. Drake took its first lead of the game with 42 seconds left in the first half on a jumper by Alexander. The game had been tied twice prior to that, at 5-5 and 12-12.
Key to Drake's halftime lead was its 10-of-13 shooting from the foul line, to Rice's 3-of-5. The Owls regained the lead, at 36-35, just 1:24 into the second half on a layup by Dylan Ennis, who led Rice with 17 points.
The game was tied five times over the remainder of the contest, but Drake could not push through and take the lead. The five Bulldog starters played 31 or more minutes each, playing without starting point guard Karl Madison (Springfield, Ill.) for the fourth consecutive game, and senior reserve forward Kraidon Woods (Henryville, Pa.) for the second game in a row.
The Owls built a 10-point lead with 5:58 to play, but Drake continued to claw its way back, never giving in to their undermanned status. The Bulldogs reduced the deficit to four points, at 70-66, with 1:11 to play after a 10-4 run that was ignited by a Simons three-pointer. It was a Rice jumper that brought the margin down to four, but that was as close as the Bulldogs would draw.
"They kept responding," said Phelps. "When we would tie it, when we would get close, they would make a play. They just made more plays than we did. They shot 59 percent in the second half, we shot 39 percent. In the first half we got to the free throw line 11 times, but weren't able to sustain that in the second half. We needed to make up that gap by getting to the free-throw line more."
Drake enjoyed its second-best free-throw shooting game of the season, at 81 percent (17-of-21), and best for a game with more than 14 attempts.
Rice outrebounded Drake 36-27 and amassed a 36-14 advantage in points scored in the paint and 27-0 in bench points.
"It was good to be in postseason, and great to get to the second round of the CIT tournament," Phelps said. "It was a hard-fought game. There were some critical times in the second half where we needed to make a play and we weren't able to make a play. Certainly have to give Rice credit. I thought they played really well on the offensive end. We haven't given up 50-percent field goal shooting in about 18 or 19 games, so you have to give those guys credit for that."
- Rayvonte Rice (555) broke Drake's single-season record for points by a sophomore (Melvin Mathis, 536, 1983-84). He now has scored more points (983) in his freshman and sophomore seasons combined than any player in Drake men's basketball history.
- Rice scored 20 or more points for the eighth time this season and 12th time in his career.
- The Bulldogs finished the season with 213 three-pointers, fifth-most in a season in school history, exceeding last season's figure (203), which is now 6th. Five of the top six seasons for three-pointers made have come in the last five years, four of them under head coach Mark Phelps.
- Redshirt-freshman Jeremy Jeffers (243 points) finished with the sixth-most points scored by a freshman in school history.
- Jeffers' 32 three-pointers were sixth-most in a season by a Drake freshman.
- Simons finished the season with 77 three-pointers, seventh on the school's single-season list, and 156 for his career, sixth-most all-time.