Daniels' 28 Points Leads Men's Basketball Over Evansville, 94-66
DES MOINES, Iowa – A career-high 28 points from junior Jordan Daniels (Fontana, Calif.) propelled the Drake University men’s basketball team to a 94-66 win over Evansville in the Missouri Valley Conference opener Wednesday night at the Knapp Center.
Daniels, the reigning MVC Newcomer of the Week was 10-of-16 from the field and 4-of-5 from the three-point arc while dishing out three of the team’s 20 assists. Those passes allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 72 percent in the second half while racking up 55 points.
“The piece that we’re starting to get a good feel for is making the extra pass,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti. “Making the extra pass becomes contagious.”
Drake (10-3, 1-0 MVC) also got solid performances from Richard Carter (Detroit, Mich.) with 19 points and a team-high five assists while Aaron Hawley (Rogers, Ark.) added 12 points off the bench in 17 minutes. Seth VanDeest (Bettendorf, Iowa) pulled down a season-high 10 rebounds in addition to his five points.
Evansville (7-7, 0-1 MVC) was led by D.J. Balentine’s 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Balentine entered the game ranked eighth nationally in scoring at 22.8 points per game.
The 28-point margin of victory was Drake’s sixth biggest in a MVC contest and its 55 second-half points were the eighth most in program history.
That lead was built early and then re-established in the second half thanks to defensive adjustments at halftime.
Drake opened the game on a tear with a 16-2 lead in the first five minutes as the defense forced five turnovers in that span and held the Purple Aces to just two field goal attempts. Daniels scored eight of his points during that spurt to open the game. However, Evansville trimmed that margin down to single digits later in the half and closed the half on a 7-0 run from Balentine to head into halftime trailing, 39-35.
The momentum quickly shifted back in favor of the Bulldogs after the break with six straight points in the first 1:17 of the second half to build the lead back up to 10 points, 45-35, on a Chris Caird (Daventry, England) three-pointer.
“The thing I’m most proud of tonight is after the run Evansville made to close to first half, our guys got refocused at halftime and we changed one little thing with our defensive transition,” Giacoletti said.
That adjustment worked to the tune of holding the previously hot-shooting Aces to just 40 percent shooting on 10 makes in the second half with an 18-4 run extending Drake’s lead to 21 points, 74-53, with 6:40 left in the contest.
The Bulldogs’ lead would never dip below 20 points for the rest of the evening and grew to as many as 30 points twice in the final 1:20 seconds of the contest.
Drake will aim to move to 2-0 in MVC play on Saturday when it faces Bradley in Giacoletti’s hometown of Peoria, Ill. Tipoff at Carver Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.