When a young squad such as the Drake University men's basketball team plays to its full potential and puts its talent on display, one is given a glimpse of where the program is headed.
By tromping the South Dakota Coyotes in the opening game of the Drake Invitational, 96-81, the Drake Bulldogs showed the program could return to the top of the MVC in the coming years.
The Bulldogs reached a season-high in total points behind a scalding 50 percent shooting mark.
The game may have also served as the turning point of a season that has thus far been disappointing. Drake's seniors gave fans reason to believe the Bulldogs may be getting over early growing pains, which will have to be worked out come Missouri Valley Conference play.
Senior guard Josh Young led the Bulldogs with a season-high 21 points, draining 4-of-5 three-pointers.
Young's now sits at 1,418 career points, becoming only the sixth player in Drake history to score 1,400 points in a career.
As a team, the Bulldogs shot a lights-out 53.8 percent from behind the arc.
Senior Adam Templeton recorded a double-double, adding a career-high 17 points and exerting himself as a force under the basket, grabbing 16 rebounds—the most for a Drake player since Jonathan Cox's 16 boards against Western Kentucky in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs profited from a well-balanced attack. Five players reached double-digits for the first time this season.
Freshman forward Ben Simons continued to show his ability to light it up from all areas of the floor. Last year's Michigan Mr. Basketball runner-up shot 70 percent, tallying 20 points for the Bulldogs.
Drake guard Ryan Wedel totaled 14 points and senior Craig Stanley came off the bench to add 13 points for the Bulldogs.
While at times it appeared the Bulldogs would have trouble putting away the Coyotes, back-to-back three-pointers by Simons and Templeton capped a 9-0 Bulldog run late in the game.
Drake's 89-77 lead forced South Dakota to begin fouling early with 1:35 left to play. The Bulldogs continued draining their shots, however, and the Coyotes were unable to lessen the gap.
Drake will face off against the Binghamton Bearcats tonight in Des Moines, as the 'Dogs try to even out the win/loss column and reach 5-5.
A win could give the Bulldogs some momentum heading into Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes next Saturday.