Courtesy: Drake Athletics –
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Drake University men’s basketball shot 52 percent from the field but could not manufacture enough defensive stops down the stretch in a 69-63 loss at Missouri State on Wednesday evening.
The Bulldogs (12-13, 3-10 MVC) were led by 18 points from Aaron Hawley (Rogers, Ark.) on 7-of-11 shooting including a three-pointer in the final minute to bring Drake within a possession. Richard Carter (Detroit, Mich.) added 17 points and four assists in the loss.
Missouri State (17-8, 7-6 MVC)shot just 37 percent to earn the season split with the Bulldogs but held an eight-rebound advantage on the glass with Ron Mvouika’s seven rebounds leading all players.
After draining five three-pointers in the first half, Drake opened the second half by driving to the basket for two quick buckets to briefly take the lead before MSU answered with seven straight points to build up a 6-point, 46-40, lead.
“We made a concerted effort to try and go inside and see if we could pound the ball inside,” said Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti. “Missouri State tried to drive us and you can’t help off of [Austin] Ruder of [Nathan] Scheer, they’ll make you pay. They’re tough guards for some of the matchups we have.”
Later in the half, MSU extended its lead to a game-high eight, 56-48, with 7:59 left before Drake again trimmed that margin to make it a two-point game with 4:32 left in the contest.
The Bulldogs continued to stay within striking distance as Hawley’s three-pointer with a minute left brought Drake within three points, 64-61. However, the Bears broke the Bulldog press with a pass the length of the court for a fast-break layup to keep Drake at bay for a possession.
Seventeen seconds later, a pair of Chris Caird (Daventry, England) free throws trimmed the margin again, but the same sequence on defense ensued to allow Missouri State to hang on for the win on its home court. Keith Pickens broke through the Drake defense on both plays to finish with 18 points.
“We haven’t been in a whole lot of late-game situations like that where you switch on a back pick and we didn’t switch,” Giacoletti said of the two plays that sealed the game.
Additionally, 23 of the Bears’ points came at the free-throw line on 29 attempts, the second most by an MVC opponent this season.
“They shot 29 free throws. You can’t go on the road and let your opponent shoot 29 free throws,” Giacoletti said. “We need to do a better job getting down, defending, showing them our hands.”
The first half saw the Bulldogs jump out to an early 7-3 lead by hitting their first three shots from the field but three turnovers on the first seven possessions helped slow that output and allow Missouri State to take a lead that it would hold for the majority of the half.
The Bears extended that lead to as many as six points, 21-15, with an 8-0 run capped by back-to-back three pointers before Hawley stemmed the tide with a three-pointer of his own. The senior finished the half with 11 points.
Drake continued to chip away at that lead and held MSU to just one field goal in the final four minutes of the opening perios and tied the game twice in that span before heading into the locker room down 39-36. The Bulldogs shot 63.6 percent in the opening half and 50 percent from the three-point arc on 10 attempts. Drake converted on just one of its nine attempts in the second half.
The Bulldogs continue the grueling MVC slate on Saturday evening when they host league newcomer Loyola at 7:05 p.m. Saturday’s game is also Drake faculty/staff appreciation night with all faculty staff being eligible to receive up to four free general admission tickets to the contest.