SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Drake University men’s basketball team could not answer 26 points from Missouri State’s Anthony Downing and a 71 percent second-half shooting performance as the Bears clipped the Bulldogs, 78-72, Sunday afternoon at JQH Arena.
Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) led Drake with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Micah Mason (Natrona Heights, Pa.) chipped in 17 points with four assists while Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) nearly notched a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
“It was a tough game and at the end, we didn’t have the ability to stop Anthony Downing,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said. “They were able to drive the ball, put fouls on us, and get to the free-throw line. That was really the story of the game in the second half.”
Drake (9-11, 3-6 MVC) appeared poised to break open the contest in the second half with an 11-0 run over the first three minutes of the period to take a 39-29 lead as the defense forced stops.
However, the tide soon turned as Missouri State (6-15, 4-5 MVC) began chipping away at the lead and effectively driving the ball into the paint. On the game, the Bears held a 34-24 advantage in points in the paint.
With 7:39 left in the game, Missouri State claimed its first lead of the second half on a Keith Pickens steal and dunk. Just two minutes later, the Bears had extended their lead to six points.
Facing a 5-point, 70-65, deficit with a 1:36 left to play after a Simons jumper, the Bulldogs allowed Nathan Scheer to get loose on the wing for a three-pointer to give the Bears an 8-point cushion with one minute remaining. Drake would get no closer than the final six-point margin as the Bears converted at the free-throw line.
MSU’s second half rally was facilitated by a 71.4 percent performance from the field in the second half. The Bears also got to the free-throw line 24 times in the half and converted on 70 percent of their attempts.
In the first half, Missouri State jumped out to an early 24-14 lead as the Bears converted on 10 of their first 12 shots. However, the Bulldogs regrouped and answered that charge with an 11-0 run over three minutes that was keyed by a defensive effort that forced 10-straight misses from the Bears.
With Drake holding a 25-24 lead and 5:20 left in the half, the two teams traded buckets to close out the period with Simons hitting his second three-pointer of the half with a minute left to account for the 29-28 halftime deficit.
The Bulldogs return to action on Wednesday evening when they travel to Southern Illinois for the first meeting between the two teams this season. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m.