Bulldogs Advance In MVC Tournament With 65-49 Win Over Bradley
Thursday, March 1, 2012
ST. LOUIS--The Drake Bulldogs defeated Bradley 65-49 Thursday night at the Scottrade Center in an opening-round game of the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament.
Drake (17-14, 9-9) will face No. 2 seed Creighton (25-5, 14-4) in the quarterfinals on Friday, March 2, at 6:08 p.m. The game will be televised by FOX Sports Midwest.
Sophomore Rayvonte Rice (Champaign, Ill.) scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting Thursday, and added five rebounds, one assist and one steal. Junior Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) scored 16 points and junior Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) pulled down a game-high nine rebounds to go with his five points.
With 17 wins Drake has matched its highest win total under head coach Mark Phelps, tying his 2008-09 figure (17-16), in his first season.
The Bulldogs earned their third win over Bradley (7-25) this season with a spirited defensive performance that limited the Braves to 34-percent shooting from the field (17-of-50), including 20 percent from three-point range (4-of-20). None of Drake's last 16 opponents has shot higher than 50 percent from the field.
Generating defensive stops on each of Bradley's first nine possessions, the Bulldogs built a 12-0 lead in the game's first six minutes. Rice scored Drake's first five points to set the tone for the game, and continued to be effective throughout the night driving the ball in the paint. Bradley's first field goal came at the 13:37 mark of the first half.
"We started out with nine straight stops on the defensive end," said Phelps. "That was a great way to start the game. We had to play hard for 40 minutes and we knew it was not going to be easy. We wanted to keep our defense tight and limit their dribble-penetration. For the most part we did that, but (Dyricus) Simms-Edwards and Walt Lemon, Jr., when they did get into the paint, they were successful."
The Bulldogs led by as many as 14 points on three occasions in the first half before heading to locker room with a 35-25 lead at intermission. Bradley used an 8-2 run to cut the Drake lead to 8 before redshirt-freshman Jeremy Jeffers (Wilson, N.C.) made two free throws with three seconds remaining.
Key to Drake's first-half surge was a 17-12 advantage on the boards and a margin of 24-to-12 in points in the paint. Drake shot 48.3 percent in the first half (14-of-29), while limiting Bradley to 39.1 percent (9-23).
Drake maintained a double-digit lead for the majority of the second half, extending the advantage to 19 points, at 65-46, with 1:59 to play.
"We were up quite a bit in the second half in Peoria (vs. Bradley) a couple weeks ago," Phelps said. "They cut an 11-point lead to three. There were some things that we didn't handle very well. I was very happy with our guys tonight. We handled their pressure and their trapping where we didn't do that in Peoria."
For the game the Bulldogs shot 45.5 percent (25-of-55), but were just 4-of-13 (30.8%) from three-point range, and made 11 of 15 free throws (73.3%). Drake outscored Bradley 40-22 in the paint, and had eight players score, with Jeffers and Kurt Alexander (Toronto, Ontario) contributing eight points apiece and Clarke 5 to complement Rice and Simons.
Alexander started the game in place of regular starting point guard Karl Madison (Springfield, Ill.), who was suffering from low-back pain. Madison played two minutes in a reserve role. It was the second start of the season for the senior, who also played much of the second half with three and four fouls.
"It was just basically preparation," Alexander said when asked about his team's performance. "We just wanted to be energetic, and be in our gaps like coach coached us to do. That's what we talked about doing to them."
The Bulldogs are now 2-3 in MVC Tournament games under Mark Phelps, and improved to 4-5 all-time versus Bradley in conference postseason play. Drake is now 6-7 in opening-round games.
The matchup with Creighton Friday will be Drake's sixth versus the Bluejays in the MVC Tournament, and the Bulldogs seek to even the record, which sits at 2-3.
"We'll start watching film tonight and come up with a one-day game-plan," Phelps said. "I thought at home we played the Bluejays pretty tough. We were a couple shots away from pulling within one, maybe taking a lead (at one point)."