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Rayvonte Rice scored 19 points, all in the second half, to join Ben Simons (24) in double figures.
Courtesy: Chris Donahue

Bulldogs Advance In CIT With 70-64 Win Over North Dakota

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
         
Release: March 14, 2012
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DES MOINES, Iowa--Junior Ben Simons scored a game-high 24 points and sophomore Rayvonte Rice added 19, all in the second half, to propel the Drake Bulldogs to a 70-64 win over North Dakota Wednesday in the first round of the CollgeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) at the Knapp Center.

It was Drake's first win in a postseason tournament beyond a conference tournament since 1975, and improved the Bulldogs' record to 18-15. It is the highest win total for Drake under head coach Mark Phelps, and best since the 2007-08 team won 28 games.

Drake will now play at Rice in the second round of the CIT on Saturday, March 17, at 7 p.m. (CT).

Junior Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) led the team with 14 rebounds to go along with his six points. Clarke's steal and feed to Simons with 24.5 seconds to play helped seal the win, as Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) was fouled and converted two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 68-64 lead. Clarke then rebounded a North Dakota miss and quickly found Simons again, who was fouled, and again knocked down both free throws to cap the 70-64 win.

The Bulldogs trailed 49-43 with 10:07 remaining in the game before embarking on an 11-1 run over the next three minutes to reclaim the lead for the first time since late in the first half. Drake's rally began with Simons' fourth three-pointer of the game to cut the deficit to 49-46. After two free throws by redshirt-freshman Jeremy Jeffers (Wilson, N.C.) Simons grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup to take the lead at 50-49.

North Dakota continued to battle and tied the game on three occasions, but never led, before Drake was eventually able to put the game away in the final minute.

For the game the Bulldogs shot 38.2 percent from the field (21-of-55), including a 50-percent mark in the second half (12-of-24). The Fighting Sioux shot 43.1 percent (25-of-58), including 51.7 percent after halftime (15-of-29). North Dakota won the rebounding battle 39-31.

Key to the Bulldogs' win was its 77.8-percent shooting from the free-throw line (21-of-27), including 80 percent on 25 second-half attempts (20-of-25), as Rice (Champaign, Ill.) set the tone for the Bulldogs' comeback by driving the ball in the lane. Rice was 6-of-8 from the line.

North Dakota led 26-24 at halftime, using a 10-0 run to take a 24-22 lead late in the half, part of a larger 16-5 run.

Simons led Drake with 11 points in the first half. He made three three-pointers before the break, including the Bulldogs' first two field goals of the game to stake an early 6-0 lead. Rice was saddled with two fouls early in the half and played just eight scoreless minutes.

The Bulldogs played without starting point guard Karl Madison (back) and Kraidon Woods (hamstring), with senior Kurt Alexander (Toronto, Ontario) starting at the point for the third consecutive game.

Drake won its first game in postseason play beyond Missouri Valley Conference tournaments since 1975, when it won three games in the National Commissioner's Invitational to claim the event's championship.

NOTES:

  • Ben Simons recorded his eighth game of 20 or more points this season, and the 11th of his career. His night included 4 three-pointers (7 att.) to notch his 8th gm this season with four or more from beyond the arc.
  • Simons moved into sixth place on Drake's all-time three-point field-goal list with 153 for his career. He also moved into seventh on the single-season list for three-point field goals (73).
  • Jordan Clarke had 14 rebounds, his ninth game this season in double figures and 10th of his career.
  • Rayvonte Rice (6-of-8 FTs tonight) has made 39-of-51 free throws, 76.5 percent, over the last eight games to raise his season mark to 70.8 percent.
  • North Dakota is the 18th consecutive Drake opponent to fail to crack the 50-percent mark in field-goal shooting (25-58-43.1%).
  • Tonight's game was the first home postseason tournament game in program history (beyond conference tournaments).
  • The Bulldogs won their 18th game of the season, most in the four-year tenure of head coach Mark Phelps and second-most since 1986. Drake went 17-16 in Phelps first season, 2008-09.
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