Second-Half Rally Fells Menís Basketball at Evansville, 61-48
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The Drake University men’s basketball team surrendered a 26-7 run to open the second half in a 61-48 loss Evansville Tuesday evening in the team’s final Missouri Valley Conference road game of the season.
Karl Madison (Springfield, Ill.) and Daddy Ugbede (Gardena, Calif.) led the Drake (14-15, 5-12 MVC) with seven points each. Due to early foul trouble encountered by many of Drake’s starters, the Bulldogs’ bench was counted on heavily and scored 27 of the team’s season-low 48 points. One of those reserves pressed into extra duty, Jacob Enevold Jensen (Lunderskov, Denmark) scored six points with seven rebounds and a career-high five blocks in 26 minutes as veteran center Seth VanDeest (Bettendorf, Iowa) was limited to just 11 minutes due to foul issues.
“He [VanDeest] had some tough fouls and we had trouble going offensively because of it,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti. “You try to make a positive of that and I think Jacob gave us some good minutes defensively, but it’s tough to stay dialed in facing Evansville’s motion offense.”
D.J. Balentine, who came into the game ranked 10th nationally in scoring, poured in 23 points with seven assists for Evansville (12-18, 5-12 MVC) while Blake Simmons scored 13 points with four assists.
“Balentine’s become more than just a good scorer,” Giacoletti said. “He’s become a great facilitator.”
Drake was held without a field goal for the final 6:22 of the first half but managed to take a 30-26 lead into the locker room thanks to four first-half three-pointers. The Bulldogs still shot 48 percent in the first half and added four three-pointers after being limited to just three total three-pointers in the loss at Wichita State.
However, that first half stall carried over to the second half as Evansville opened the period on 26-7 run and held Drake to just two field goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Balentine added 11 points during that span while the Aces were 10-of-16 from the field and a near perfect 4-of-6 from the arc to take a 52-37 lead with 9:48 left in the contest.
“I feel like we’re having to coach effort on every single play and that’s tough to do when you’re trying to get pieces in the right spot at the same time,” Giacoletti said. “We talk about effort constantly and it’s something we shouldn’t have to continue to preach. Communication, huddling you have to have somebody step up.”
Drake would get no closer than 10 points for the remainder of the evening. The Bulldogs, who came into the game averaging 7.9 three pointers per game, tacked on just one three-pointer in the second half to finish with four on the evening.
“Everybody is limited as a basketball player is limited and as soon as you go outside of those limits, you get in trouble,” Giacoletti added of his team’s struggles to find offensive rhythm. “We’ve proven if you stay within those limits, we can be pretty successful.”
The first half featured six lead changes in the first nine minutes before a small 5-0 spurt allowed Drake to build a 4-point, 19-15, lead on a rare Madison three-pointer. The Bulldogs would later extend that lead to as many as seven points, but Balentine’s 10 first-half points help to trim that margin to 30-26 at halftime as Drake scored just two points, both at the free-throw line, in the final 6:22 of the half.
Drake returns home to close out the regular season on Saturday against Bradley at 2:05 p.m. in the Knapp Center. Saturday will be the Bulldogs’ ‘Senior Day’ as the program honors and recognizes its three seniors, VanDeest, Richard Carter and Aaron Hawley prior to their final home game.
“We’ve got three seniors we’re going to try to send out of here the right way on Saturday, that’s where our focus is heading into Saturday.”