Menís Basketball Fights Off UNI Rally, 70-67
DES MOINES, Iowa – The Drake University men’s basketball saw a 20-point lead nearly evaporate but made enough plays down the stretch to secure a hard-fought 70-67 win over UNI Tuesday evening in the Knapp Center.
Drake (14-13, 5-10 MVC) took an early lead and continued to score on UNI (13-14, 7-8 MVC) to build its lead to as many as 20-points, 52-32, with 13:22 left in the game. But the Panthers came charging back with a 16-0 run over six and a half minutes to pull within two points of the Bulldogs, 62-60, while keeping Drake without a field goal for the final 7:46 of the contest.
A string of Drake free throws in the final minute of the game allowed the Bulldogs to stave off the UNI rally and secure the program’s first victory over UNI since 2011.
“We got through it. We got it done. I apologize if maybe we need to finish a little bit better down the stretch, but for the most part the guys hung in there and they did a good job,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti.
The Bulldogs came out hot, shooting over 50 percent from the floor throughout most of the game, compared to UNI’s 38 percent. Richard Carter led the Bulldogs with 19 points and six assists while going 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Trevor Berkeley (Tucker, Ga.) followed closely with a career-high 15 points, nine of which were from behind the three-point arc, and 12 points in the first half alone. Junior Seth Tuttle led the Panthers with 20 points and added seven rebounds.
An early 13-0 run at the start of the game gave the Bulldogs the momentum throughout the first half. Three consecutive three-pointers, the first by Carter followed by two Berkeley makes, helped boost the Bulldogs to a 13-2 lead.
The Bulldogs played tough defense throughout the first half, grabbing 15 defensive rebounds and blocking three shots as the Panthers became Drake’s fourth straight opponent held to 40 percent or less shooting from the field.
“That’s something we tried from the get-go and we take pride in, and we’re starting to do a better job,” Giacoletti said regarding the Bulldogs’ tough defense.
Drake continued to dominate to open the second half as a steal by Carter propelled the Bulldogs to a 9-0 run over a two minute span to advance their lead to 20 points, the largest lead of the night, with 13 minutes to play in the game.
Then the momentum shifted decisively, with just under eight minutes left to play when the Panthers’ Max Martino sank a three-pointer that ignited a 16-0 run to tighten the score. Free throws were huge for Drake in the final minutes of the game, with shots from the line by Carter, Karl Madison (Springfield, Ill.) and Seth VanDeest (Bettendorf, Iowa) to preserve the win with those three going 8-of-10 from the line in the final minute.
VanDeest finished the game with his second straight strong performance via eight points, a game-high eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 23 minutes.
“I’m proud as ever,” Giacoletti said. “This team has had a chance, they gave themselves a chance by coming back and working hard and not splintering. It just feels special for them to win back-to-back games.”
The Bulldogs hit the road with those wins to face MVC leader and No. 3/2 ranked Wichita State on Saturday, Feb. 22. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at Charles Koch Arena.