Bulldogs Close Regular Season With Loss At Wichita State
Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012
WICHITA, Kan.--The Drake Bulldogs suffered defeat at the hands of Missouri Valley Conference regular season champion Wichita State, 81-58, Saturday before a charged-up crowd of 10,506 at Charles Koch Arena.
Junior Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) led Drake with 21 points, all on three-point baskets, in the final regular-season tune-up for both teams before the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference tournament begins next Thursday, March 1.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs' record to 16-14, 9-9 in the Missouri Valley Conference, while Wichita State improved to 26-4, 16-2. Drake ties with five other teams for third place, but ends up with the No. 7 seed in the tournament by way of multiple tie-breakers. The Bulldogs posted a .500 record in the Valley for just the fifth time in the last 25 seasons, and first in Mark Phelps' four-year tenure as head coach.
Drake will open play at "Arch Madness" on Thursday, March 1, at 8:38 p.m. vs. Bradley (7-24, 2-16 MVC) at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. It is the second year in a row the Bulldogs and Braves meet in an opening round game of the tournament. Drake swept the season series with Bradley.
Simons made a career-high seven three-point shots, tied for fifth-most in a game by a Bulldog, including five in the first half to keep Drake in the game after it fell behind 12-1 in the game's first five minutes. He shot 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, and 7-of-17 on all field goals. Simons made four three-points in a span of 2:27 in the first half to pull Drake to within two points, at 15-13, with 12:06 to play in the half.
Sophomore Rayvonte Rice (Champaign, Ill.) added 18 points for the Bulldogs, with 14 coming in the second half. Rice was 7-of-12 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line, and tied for the team lead in rebounds with four. He earned most of his second-half baskets on strong drives to the hoop against a Shockers' defense that ranks No. 1 in the MVC in field-goal percentage defense and No. 2 in points allowed.
"We fell behind 12-1, but we got back to 15-13, and really withstood that first onslaught," Phelps said. "We just couldn't get consistent scoring and we could not consistently get to the free-throw line."
Drake fought back from a 12-point deficit, at 27-15, late in the first half with a 10-2 run, but Wichita State scored the last seven points of the half to take a 36-25 lead to the locker room.
With a three-pointer to open the second half, the Shockers made it 10 consecutive points and got the home crowd back on its feet. Drake however, had one last gasp, embarking on an 8-0 run ignited by Simons' sixth and seventh three-pointers.
That was as close as Drake would get, as Wichita State went on a 12-2 run and never looked back, en route to the 81-58 victory.
The Bulldogs shot 21-of-59 from the field (35.6%), including 9-of-23 from three-point range (39.1%), and 7-of-9 from the free-throw line (77.8%). Wichita State made 29-of-65 field goals (44.6%), including 6-of-25 from three (24.0%), and 17-of-20 from the line (85%).
Wichita State, the No. 1 rebounding team in the Valley, won the battle of the boards 44-32.
Phelps credited Wichita State's defense with holding Simons to six points in the second half.
"It was a combination of Ben not being 100 percent (after illness) and them switching guys on and off of him, which was a great plan," Phelps said. "That led to him slowing down in the second half."
Redshirt-freshman Jeremy Jeffers (Wilson, N.C.) gave Drake a third player in double figures, scoring 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field, including 2-of-4 from three-point range. Junior Jordan Clarke played just four minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls, and played just 14 minutes in the game. He was held scoreless and grabbed three rebounds.
In the five-way tie for third place, Evansville ended up as the No. 3 seed, Illinois State is No. 4, Northern Iowa No. 5, Missouri State No. 6 and Indiana State No. 8. For more on the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament, visit www.mvc-sports.com.
- Drake has not allowed an opponent to shoot higher than 50 percent from the field since Jan. 7 when Northern Iowa shot 55 percent, a span of 15 games. Wichita State shot 44.6 percent (29-of-65) today
- Ben Simons scored 20 or more points for the 10th time in his career and was in double figures for the 42nd time.
- Simons topped his previous career high of six three-pointers (vs. Chicago State, 12/23/10) with seven today, tied for fifth-most in a game by a Bulldog. Simons now ranks eighth on Drake's career list (145), and with 66 this season is tied for 10th on Drake's single-season list.
- Rice scored in double figures for the 50th time in 60 career games.