DES MOINES, Iowa – Seth VanDeest led Drake for the second straight game with 19 points to help the Drake men’s basketball team edge North Carolina Central, 72-69, Wednesday evening at the Knapp Center.
During the final eight minutes, neither team led by more than four points as the Bulldogs (5-5) and Eagles (5-6) went basket-for-basket before Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) hit a three pointer with 2:47 left in the game to put Drake up, 66-65. Simons finished with 16 points and four three-pointers.
NCCU answered with a free throw to briefly tie the game before the Bulldogs went to VanDeest for back-to-back layups in the paint to take a four-point, 70-66, lead with 47 seconds left. The junior from Bettendorf, Iowa, was 6-of-9 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
“I think a big objective for us is getting the ball in to Seth,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said of the final minutes. “We don’t do a great job of looking for him for 40 minutes. The goal is to make sure he gets a look and we’re getting better at that.”
The Eagles didn’t succumb to the 4-0 Drake run as Stanton Kidd drained a three-pointer on NCCU’s next possession to finish with a game-high 23 points. Defending the in-bound pass, NCCU forced a jump ball to retain possession, but missed its attempt to take the lead with 16 seconds left with the rebound falling into Joey King’s (Egan, Minn.) hands for his career-high 10th board of the evening. Out of a Drake timeout, Richard Carter (Detroit, Mich.) was fouled and calmly drained both shots to give Drake a three-point, 72-69, cushion with 11 seconds left. Carter scored 13 points with five assists on the evening.
“He did a terrific job, he had an assist on an under-the-basket play and hit two big free throws,” Phelps said of Carter’s game. “I thought his defensive intensity really picked up in the second half and was a big part of us being better on defense in the second half.”
The Eagles got two attempts at a game-winning three-pointer, but both tries were off the mark to preserve the Drake win.
In addition to Kidd’s 23 points, Jeremy Ingram also added 23 points for the Eagles in the losing effort as the Drake defense clamped down to only allow 40 percent shooting in the second half after a 58.3 percent performance in the first stanza.
The Bulldogs converted on 50 percent of their attempts but were a blistering 47.6 percent (10-of-21) from three-point range. Four of those 10 makes came during a two-minute stretch early in the first half that gave Drake a 12-point lead and allowed the team to take a 41-37 lead into the locker room.
Drake remains at home to host Eastern Illinois on Saturday afternoon at 2:05 p.m. in the Knapp Center in the first meeting between the two programs.