Junior Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and three players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs, who won their second game in a row to move into a three-way tie for fourth place in the MVC with two conference games remaining.
The Bulldogs are now 15-12, 8-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference, while Bradley falls to 7-21, 2-14 in the MVC. Drake is now assured of its best conference record in the four-year tenure of head coach Mark Phelps, and has its highest overall win total since Phelps' first season, 2008-09, when the Bulldogs won 17 games.
"It was a really hard-fought game, and I give our guys a lot of credit for surviving the frenzy at the end that Bradley was able to create," said Phelps. "It's great for us to get a road win, but I can't say enough about Bradley and how hard those guys played, and what good job (head coach) Geno (Ford) is doing."
Sophomore Rayvonte Rice (Champaign, Ill.) and senior Kurt Alexander (Toronto, Canada) scored 15 points apiece to lead the Bulldogs, and junior Aaron Hawley (Rogers, Ark.) added 12 points. Hawley's last two points came on a clutch 15-foot jumper from the right side with 47 seconds remaining, with his team clinging to a three-point lead after Bradley had scored 10 consecutive points.
"We really needed that," Phelps said. "When you have an 18-point lead and it shrinks to three, there's certainly some anxiety. It thought we were a little tight at that point, and again, give Bradley credit. That was a big shot for Aaron. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well most of the night, but that was really big to give us a five-point cushion."
The Bulldogs answered with a 6-0 run in just a 37-second span to restore the lead to 14 points, at 55-41. The run was fueled by two Alexander buckets sandwiched around two free throws by Hawley, giving Drake what seemed like a comfortable cushion with 6:16 to play.
The Braves, however, answered again with a 12-1 run, in which Lemon scored nine points to put his team in position to win. It was his jumper with 1:20 to play that cut the Drake lead to 56-53. That's when Hawley's jumper followed to give Drake the cushion it needed to hold on for the win.
Drake missed a chance to put a cap on the victory when four consecutive free throws went awry in the final minute before Alexander stepped to the line and knocked down both shots to give Drake a 60-53 lead with 11 seconds to play. Lemon, Jr., came back with one final jumper before Clarke answered with a layup with three seconds remaining to produce the final score of 62-55.
Clarke set the tone for an energized Bulldogs performance at the defensive end, grabbing 13 of his 16 rebounds off Bradley misses. The 16 rebounds were the most by a Bulldog since Adam Templeton pulled down 16 in a victory over South Dakota on Dec. 11, 2009.
Drake forced Bradley into 33.9-percent shooting (21-for-62), including an 0-20 performance from three-point range. Drake shot 41.8 percent (23-of-55), including 7-of-15 from beyond the arc.
Neither team shot well from the free-throw line, with Drake making 9-of-18 (50 percent) and Bradley 13-of-22 (59.1 percent). The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle for the second game in a row, 44-39, collecting a season high for a regulation game. They were just four short of the 48 they pulled down in the Jan. 28 triple-overtime victory over Wichita State.
The win was Drake's first against the Braves in Peoria since Jan. 22, 2008, and gave the Bulldogs a sweep of the season series with the Braves for the first time since 2004-05. Bradley had won five of the last six contests against the Bulldogs on its home floor.
The Bulldogs and the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference's men's basketball teams now step away from intra-conference battles for one weekend, as all will participate in Sears BracketBusters X.
Drake travels to Las Cruces, N.M., for a Saturday afternoon tilt with New Mexico State. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Pan American Center, and the game will be televised on ESPNU. The Aggies are 19-8 overall, 7-3 and in second place in the Western Athletic Conference.
Jordan Clarke's 16 rebounds were the most by a Bulldog since Adam Templeton had 16 in a 96-81 win over South Dakota on Dec. 11, 2009.
Drake has not allowed an opponent to shoot higher than 50 percent in its last12 games.
The Bulldogs improved to 14-2 on the season when shooting a higher percentage than their opponent (41.8% to 33.9% tonight).
In the last three games combined Drake has a defensive field-goal percentage of .352 (58-165). That figure includes 21-of-105 (.200) by opponents from three-point range.
Tonight's game was the 2,499th game in the 106-year history of Drake's men's basketball program. The Bulldogs have an all-time record of 1,146-1,353 (.459).
Drake is now 8-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference, assuring the Bulldogs of their best league record in Mark Phelps' four-year tenure as head coach. His first three teams each finished 7-11 in the Valley.
With 15 wins the Bulldogs have secured at least the second-best record in Phelps' four years as head coach with a minimum of four games remaining. His first team in 2008-09 finished 17-16.
The win was Drake's first at Carver Arena since Jan. 22, 2008, breaking a three-game losing streak to the Braves on their home floor. Bradley entered the game having beaten Drake in five of last six matchups at home.
The victory gave Drake its first season sweep of Bradley since 2004-05 when it swept the series for the second season in a row.