ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Drake University men’s basketball team got a pair of 20-point performances from Ben Simons and Joey King, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a talented Xavier team as the Bulldogs fell, 74-70, in their final game at the DIRECTV Classic Sunday morning.
Senior Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) became the 23rd player in Drake basketball history to pass the 1,000-point mark, with 20 points to give him 1,009 career points. Joey King (Eagan, Minn.) was the leading scorer for the Bulldogs (2-3), setting a career high with 21 points, and was largely responsible for keeping Drake on Xavier’s heels when the Bulldogs faced an early deficit.
Senior Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) recorded his fourth consecutive double-double, adding 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue and White. Clarke became the fifth player in tournament history to have double-doubles in all three games, in addition to setting the tournament’s rebounding record with 39 boards in three games.
Xavier, which trailed 30-26 at halftime, used an 11-0 run following the first media timeout in the second half to regain the lead, 44-36, midway through the second half. Drake clawed back on multiple occasions in the second half, but the Musketeers pulled away with a 6-0 run in the final four minutes of the game that increased their lead to as many as 11 points.
“We went through a stretch in the second half that ended up determining the game,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said. “We couldn’t score and we couldn’t keep them from scoring. Like all games against good teams, you can’t afford a stretch like that where you aren’t getting it done on either end of the court.”
The Musketeers shut down the Bulldogs’ offense in the early stages of the game to take a seven-point advantage, forcing Drake to take a timeout less than five minutes into the game to regroup.
The early timeout worked as Drake put an 11-3 run together, keyed by a trio of three-point baskets by King, to tie the game at 15. Drake ended the half on a 7-0 run that lasted the final 3:17, to hold a 30-26 halftime lead.
Subpar shooting hampered Drake’s offense with the Bulldogs converting 37.5 percent (24 of-64) from the field. Drake shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc, with four three-point baskets coming in the final three minutes of the game. Xavier (5-1), converted on 45.1 percent of its attempts from the field and got to the free-throw line 16 more times than Drake.
Five Musketeers scored in double figures, led by Semaj Christon who was responsible for a team-high 16 points in addition to seven assists. Dee Davis added 15 points for the Musketeers.
The Blue and White will head to Reno, Nev., next for the Mountain West/MVC Challenge matchup with the Nevada Wolf Pack. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. CST and can be heard on KRNT 1350 AM in Des Moines.