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DES MOINES, Iowa - The Drake University men’s basketball team fell behind early and despite a furious second-half charge, fell to Illinois State, 77-63, Saturday night at the Knapp Center. Illinois State opened the game by shooting a blistering 53.3 percent from the floor to lead by as many as 18-points in the first half.

“We gave a great effort, great fight,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti. “It’s like we got shell shocked right away and just spent the rest of the night trying to dig our way out of a hole.”

Illinois State (11-7, 4-2 MVC) went on an 8-point run over a span of two minutes midway through the first half to build a 30-13 lead over the Bulldogs. Drake (10-8, 1-5 MVC) struggled rebounding throughout the game and faced a 12-rebound deficit in the first half en route to a 38-23 margin for the game. Senior Aaron Hawley (Rogers, Ark.) had Drake’s only offensive rebound of the half and finished the game with four rebounds while Blake Danielak (Georgetown, Texas) led Drake on the glass with six boards.

“We really lost our way tonight [rebounding], for whatever reason. Tonight was the biggest discrepancy of the season,” Giacoletti said, regarding rebounds.  “It’s a fundamental basic principal – it’s on me – we have to get back to finding our way with that.”

Drake rallied from a 17-point deficit in the second half, sinking 16-of-18 shots from the free-throw line to cut the Redbirds’ lead down to six points twice in the final 11 minutes of the game, the last on a Chris Caird (Daventry, England) layup with 9:58 left in the contest. However, the Redbirds responded immediately with a 7-0 spurt capped by a Reggie Lynch dunk to extend the lead back out to double-digits where it would remain for the rest of the evening. The Bulldogs attacked the rim and drew fouls to claw their way back into the game in the second and by the end of the game the Redbirds had accumulated 25 personal fouls, resulting in 24 points for Drake as the Bulldogs toed the line 30 times. The defense also clamped down in the second period, holding Illinois State, to 41.7 percent shooting. The Redbirds came into the game averaging an MVC-low 40.4 percent from the field.

Senior Richard Carter (Detroit, Mich.) led the Bulldogs in scoring with 24 points, for his seventh 20-point game of the season along with a game-high four steals. Hawley added 14 points, including 12 points from the three-point arc to match his career-high with four makes. Junior Daishon Knight led Illinois State with 17 points.

“I’ve done this long enough to know that the most important thing right now is the staff and the team not splintering, and we’re not,” Giacoletti said. “We’re fine, as long as we continue to come back and have good practices every day and that’s where the next step is going to be.”

The Bulldogs will have three of those steps to take in practices leading up to the team’s next game, a Jan. 22 contest at Southern Illinois. Tipoff at SIU Arena is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

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