When a team makes its living from behind the three-point line—as the Drake Bulldogs do—the game plan is quite simple: sink your shots.
The Bulldogs drained 9-of-17 three-pointers in the first half.
Drake followed up by only hitting 2-of-11 in the second half.
Add the fact that the Iowa Hawkeyes—Jarryd Cole in particular—allowed Drake to sniff out points in the paint only a couple times and you have the recipe for the Bulldogs coming up short in Iowa City, 71-67.
With the loss, the Bulldogs dropped below the .500 mark with a 5-6 record.
Several Bulldogs played admirably—freshman center Seth Van Deest led the 'Dogs with 15 points (12 in the second half) and guards Ryan Wedel and Craig Stanley each scored 11.
Noticeably cold for the night was Drake senior Josh Young. While Young rallied late in the game to secure a tally of 13 points, he missed many shots that are normally made with ease.
The Hawkeyes did well in exposing Drake's weakness.
In both appearance and physicality Iowa dwarfed the Bulldogs. Once again, when play got tough, Drake crumbled.
To the credit of the Bulldogs, Iowa was held without a basket for almost the final four minutes of the game, nearly allowing Drake to snatch the victory.
Though the Bulldogs are now 0-2 against in-state rivals, the team doesn't have time to dwell on the loss as they welcome its toughest non-conference opponent in San Diego State tomorrow night for the MVC-Mountain West Challenge.
The good news is the Bulldogs are 22-16 against Mountain West opponents and 4-2 against San Diego State, historically.
The bad news?
The Aztecs return two starters from last year's 26-10 team that reached the NIT semifinals and are currently 8-3 with notable victories over Saint Mary's, Pacific, and Arizona State.
What are the keys to securing a Drake upset over the Aztecs?
- The Bulldogs need to see more of their balanced attack offense. Ryan Wedel, Ben Simons, Adam Templeton, and Josh Young have all shown they can rack up the points for the Bulldogs. More all-around production will be needed.
- Be aggressive (B-E aggressive!). Drake tends to over-rely on its distance shooting. While excellent, it doesn't tend to win games especially when the other team can match the performance shot-for-shot. Let Van Deest show the Aztecs why he's going to be a force for years to come for the Bulldogs.
- D-D-D, Defense! It isn't one of Drake's strengths but the Bulldogs can't afford to get in a shootout with the Aztecs. Head Coach Mark Phelps needs to draw up a plan that will allow the Bulldogs to come up with some big stops.
- Get Josh Young the ball. Even when struggling, he is the best player on the team. Let him do his thing.
Sound simple? That's because it is.
The Bulldogs don't need a miracle offensive makeover to reach the next level of performance. While a few tweaks on defense could be beneficial, this team has the talent—and now some of the experience—it needs to keep up with older squads.