ST. LOUIS — Drake took care of business Thursday against Bradley by taking care of the basketball.
The Bulldogs committed just eight turnovers against a team that thrives on thievery and used a late 17-4 run to break open a close game in posting an 81-66 victory in the opening game of the Missouri Valley tournament.
“We felt like if we could take care of the ball that we could get a decent shot,” Drake coach Mark Phelps said. “Limiting our turnovers was the key. Guys stepped up and made shots, but they also took care of the ball.
“That’s the key for this team moving forward.”
The win at the Scottrade Center earned the Bulldogs a shot at top-seeded Creighton at noon on Friday. Guard Gary Ricks Jr. said his team will be ready in spite of the quick turnaround.
“When your backs are against the wall like ours are, there’s no such thing as fatigue,” said Ricks, who had 14 points for the Bulldogs. “Things might be a little slow at first, but we’ll be fine once we get our legs.
“We’re excited to play Creighton. We played well the last time we played them, and we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
The Bulldogs improved to 14-15. They shot 50 percent from the field and made 12 3-point baskets, with Ricks and Chris Hines each making four. Hines led Drake with 16 points, while Joey King and Ricks led a strong showing by the Bulldogs’ reserves.
King had 15 points and six rebounds and combined with Ricks to score 29 of the 37 points Drake got from its bench players. Bradley’s reserves scored only nine.
Still, the Braves were still in the game with 9:07 to play as Jake Eastman’s jumper trimmed Drake’s lead to 58-55. Ricks then made a 3-point start to open the decisive that stretched the Bulldogs’ lead to 75-59 with 3:13 to play.
Eastman and Will Egolf each scored 15 points to lead Bradley, which ended its season at 16-16.
“We didn’t get off to a great start, and we couldn’t turn them over,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said. “That’s a formula for disaster for us because we need steals to get easy baskets, and we didn’t get many tonight.”
Missouri State set to face Shockers
Freshman Marcus Marshall and senior Anthony Downing combined to keep Missouri State’s season alive at the Missouri Valley tournament.
Marshall scored 18 points and Downing had 16 as the Bears posted a 61-53 victory over Southern Illinois. The victory improved Missouri State to 11-21 and as the Bears advanced to a Friday night quarterfinal against second-seeded Wichita State.
Desmar Jackson and Anthony Beane Jr. each scored 12 points for Southern Illinois, which had 16 turnovers in finishing its season 14-17.
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