PEORIA, Ill. – Cold shooting and turnovers combined to hamper the Drake University men’s basketball team in its Missouri Valley Conference opener as the team fell at Bradley Saturday evening, 67-57.
Drake (6-6, 0-1 MVC) was second in the nation in three-point shooting coming into the game but managed just 18.5 percent (5-of-27) against a stingy Bradley (9-4, 1-0 MVC) defense that forced 18 Drake turnovers and scored 23 points as a result of Bulldog miscues.
“They got 13 steals and 18 turnovers and that’s really it,” Drake head coach Mark Phelpssaid. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and turned the ball over. Give Bradley credit for that. That was really the game there – twenty-three points off our turnovers.”
Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) led Drake with a double-double thanks to 13 points and a career-high 10 rebounds while Seth VanDeest (Bettendorf, Iowa) and Chris Hines (Houston, Texas) added 10 and 11 points, respectively.
Simons 10 boards helped contribute to the team’s season-high 46 rebounds with the Bulldogs holding a 12-rebound advantage over Bradley.
“We rebounded well, and that’s a good sign,” Phelps said. “Hopefully that continues to trend for us.”
However, Drake shot an uncharacteristically low 33.9 percent (20-of-59) from the field.
“I thought it was a focus by Bradley, they did a good job of it,” Phelps said of Bradley’s defense. “We also missed some open shots. Certainly defense played a role in that and I think what happens is when you’re not knocking shots down, you’re not quite as comfortable and you get anxious.”
The Braves were paced by Dyricus Simms-Edwards’ 20 points and eight steals while Walt Lemmon, Jr. added 23 points.
Drake trailed by as many as nine points early in the first half before Daddy Ugbede(Gardena, Calif.) entered the contest and scored five straight points followed by a pair of Simons free throws to put the Bulldogs up, 18-17, with 5:34 left in the half. Drake stayed within a possession for the remainder of the half before Bradley took a 29-27 lead into halftime. Ugbede finished with a career-high seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.
The Bulldogs appeared poised to come out gunning in the second half with a Hines three-pointer on the first possession. However, Bradley answered with a 14-1 run over the next three minutes to push its lead to 12 points. With just under nine minutes left in the contest, the Braves extended their lead to 18 points, 60-42. The Bulldogs clawed back via a 13-3 run capped by three-pointers from Simons and Hines to pull within eight points, 63-55, with 3:05 left in the contest. Unfortunately, the offense could continue that momentum as Drake converted on just one shot in the final three minutes while Bradley made enough free throws to keep the Bulldogs at bay.
The Bulldogs continue MVC play on Wednesday evening when they host Wichita State at the Knapp Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.