Things seemed, at least at face value, pretty equal between the Drake and Bradley men's basketball teams in the Braves' 83-71 win over the Bulldogs on Wednesday.
The details, however, tell a different story.
Each team had equal possessions: 66 for Bradley, 66 for Drake.
Bradley shot 59.6% from the field and 36.8% from 3-point range. The Bulldogs went 37.7% overall and 33.3% on 3-pointers. The Braves held off D.J. Wilkins until the final few minutes of the game. Ayo Akinwole managed just two shots and no 3-pointers.
While Drake typically edges out opponents in second-chance points and points off the bench, Bradley had the advantage in both.
The Bulldogs only took the lead twice in the entire game, both times by one point in the first half. Drake’s last advantage was an 11-10 lead off a free throw from Garrett Sturtz with 14:06 left in the opening frame.
That’s almost 36 minutes that Bradley held the lead. The Bulldogs have excelled in second-half comebacks this season, but the attempt fell short Wednesday.
“We couldn’t stop them the whole game,” said Roman Penn, who finished with 14 points and three assists. “Every time we tried to cut into the lead, they made big shot after big shot. They played a lot of teams in the conference hard, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They played better than us today. We didn’t come with enough grit on defense and we just let them get comfortable.”
— MVC Basketball (@ValleyHoops) January 20, 2022
Head coach Darian DeVries has spoken about the strength of the Missouri Valley Conference this year since the preseason, even when Drake was tabbed the conference favorite in the preseason poll. But a few votes in September mean little with conference play underway.
“When you look at the preseason predictions and then you look at the games and the outcomes, you can throw all that out the window,” DeVries said Tuesday ahead of the Bradley game. “Doesn’t matter where you were in the preseason rankings. Every night it’s been really competitive games. It’s exciting games.”
DeVries said his team needed to come ready against Bradley, because no one knows his team’s strengths and weaknesses better than conference opponents. Looking at Wednesday’s game, the end result wasn’t because the Bulldogs played a terrible game.
The Braves knew how to shut down Drake’s strongest players — athletes that they’ve seen on the court together for several seasons now — and tapped into the Bulldogs’ weaknesses. A small glimmer from Wednesday’s loss: The Braves couldn’t stop Tucker DeVries, who led all scorers with 17 points.
Bradley got the best of the Bulldogs on Wednesday, but Drake will need to have a goldfish memory to bounce back for a week of tougher opponents. The Bulldogs are slated to play at in-state rival Northern Iowa on Saturday, travel to Illinois State next Wednesday and then host the conference’s top team, Loyola, on Sunday, Jan. 30.
“Playing basketball, you (have) to have a very short memory,” DeVries said. “Our guys' routine will be the same. You learn from the night before, win or lose, and then reflect on it the next day. And then you move on and get ready to prepare for the next game.”
Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Drake men's basketball needs short memory after MVC loss to Bradley