Mason Scores 19 Points In Drake’s 74-56 Rout of Eastern Illinois
DES MOINES, Iowa – Hot shooting and a career-high 19 points by freshman Micah Mason (Allegheny, Pa.) helped the Drake men’s basketball team defeat Eastern Illinois, 74-56, at the Knapp Center Saturday afternoon.
Drake (6-5) shot 56.1 percent (23-of-41) from the field while connecting on 13-of-22 from behind the three-point arc (59.1 percent) and 15-of-18 (83.3 percent) from the free throw line. Mason knocked down a career-high five three-pointers to go along with a career-high six assists in his second start. Eastern Illinois (3-10) was led by Sherman Blanford with 18 points and seven rebounds.
“I’m really happy with the way we played,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said. “I thought our intensity was really good at times. As we continue to put together 40 minutes of basketball, we have the potential to be good. We continue to play well on the offensive end and we need to keep concentrating on the defensive end.”
Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds while Seth VanDeest (Bettendorf, Iowa) had 10 points and three rebounds. Chris Hines (Houston, Texas) was the other Bulldog in double figures with 11 points. The Bulldogs were without the Missouri Valley Conference’s rebounding leader as senior Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) missed the game with an injury.
Drake led for the majority of the first half and took a 33-26 lead into halftime courtesy of a 9-0 run to close the half as the Panthers’ methodical offense dictated the tempo of the game.
However, the Bulldogs asserted control of that tempo in the second half as Mason made a three-pointer 25 seconds into the half and later added a layup as Drake built its lead to 38-26. The Panthers ended their scoreless streak after Alex Austin made a free throw at the 17:13 mark to account for five scoreless minutes for EIU.
“I thought we had a nice flurry there, especially in transition,” Phelps said. “Micah hit a three and then found Gary [Ricks] for two threes. We just ask him [Mason] to be aggressive, but play the right way.”
The Panthers battled back to cut Drake’s lead to 47-39 after Austin Akers made a three-pointer, but Simons answered with his third three-pointer of the day to push Drake’s lead to 50-39 with 13:27 remaining. The Bulldogs used a 13-2 scoring run over the next four minutes to take its lead to 63-41 with 8:34 left to go in the game. A layup by Jeremy Jeffers (Wilson, N.C.) gave Drake its largest lead of the game at 24 points, 73-49, with 3:35 remaining and allowed Phelps to empty his bench.
The Bulldogs opened the game hot with 12 points in the first 2:30 and took a 19-14 lead at the second media timeout of the first half behind six points each from Simons and VanDeest.
Out of the media timeout Drake was held scoreless for nearly five minutes and fell behind, 26-24, before a pair of Bulldog freshmen stepped up with much needed points on consecutive possessions. Joey King (Egan, Minn.), who started in place of Clarke, made two free throws and Mason connected on a three-pointer from the right baseline to help Drake take a 29-26 lead. Simons added a jumper and pair of free throws to give the Bulldogs a 33-26 lead at the break. Drake’s tough defense kept the Panthers scoreless for the final four minutes of the first half.
Drake will break for the holiday and will start MVC action at Bradley on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m.
“It’s always nice to get a win before the break and go into the holidays on a good note,” Phelps said. “The conference season gets started in a week and there’s many, many challenges for us. Every game is going to be a battle and I think our non-conference schedule has prepared us for the Valley.”