PEORIA, Ill. - A 19-2 deficit to start the game proved to be too much for the Drake University men’s basketball team to overcome in a 68-57 loss to Bradley Saturday evening at Carver Arena. The Bulldogs drew within four points but couldn’t come any closer despite a career-high 27 points from senior Aaron Hawley (Rogers, Ark.) to end the team’s four-game winning streak.
Bradley (6-9) snapped a seven-game losing streak to even its Missouri Valley Conference record at 1-1 behind a career-high 21 points from Walt Lemon, Jr., including 11 straight points in the second half to pull away from the Bulldogs for good.
“For whatever reason we were not physically tough enough to start the game, it’s just that simple,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti. “We’ve got to be able to better in those situations and we turned the ball over 15 times which led to run-outs and transition baskets for them.”
The genesis of Drake’s (10-4, 1-1 MVC) early deficit was a 12-0 run by Bradley to open the game with the Braves holding Drake scoreless for the first 5:15 of the game. However, soon after a Jordan Daniels (Fontana, Calif.) jumper put Drake on the board, Bradley rattled off seven more points to build up a 19-2 lead.
Rebounding was key to that spurt with BU hauling in eight of the game’s first 10 rebounds while forcing five Drake turnovers in first seven minutes of the half. Drake finished the half with seven turnovers which became 15 Bradley points.
Undeterred by the 19-2 hole, the Bulldogs would respond to outscore Bradley 26-15 over the final 13 minutes of the half by shooting 7-of-13 from the field during that span. Chris Caird (Daventry, England) finished the half with seven of his nine points on the evening and added a team-high six rebounds.
But, Bradley’s proficiency in the lane dictated the flow of the game for the first half and the majority of the second period as well.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting post touches,” Giacoletti said. “We’re just relying on jump shots right now.”
Drake struck first in the second half to pull within four points, 34-30, but Lemon answered with seven straight points to extend the lead back to 11 points in just 1:30. The Braves lead stayed at nine or more points for the next 12 minutes until Daniels hit a pair of free throws to pull within eight points at 57-49 with 5:26 left in the contest.
Unfortunately for Drake, Lemon struck again with a three-pointer less than a minute later as part of his 11-point spurt to close the game.
With 1:04 left in the contest, Hawley hit his fourth three-pointer of the night to pull back within nine points, 66-57, before a Lemon dunk and a turnover on Drake’s final possession accounted for the final tally.
“Aaron did a good job and gave us a great lift,” Giacoletti said. “Without him tonight this could have gotten real ugly. But we’ve got to go back to making easy plays and making something happen to get easier looks.”
Hawley’s career night came via 9-of-13 shooting and a 4-of-7 evening from the three-point arc with five free throws.
The Bulldogs continue MVC play on Wednesday when they host Indiana State at the Knapp Center at 7:05 p.m. The Sycamores were picked second in the league in the preseason poll and travel to Des Moines with an 11-3 record and a 2-0 mark in the MVC.