Hot shooting, bench lead Bulldogs in MVC tourney

ST. LOUIS – A combination of 37 points from the bench and 50 percent shooting from the floor helped the ninth-seeded Drake men’s basketball team to an easy win over eighth-seeded Bradley in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Thursday.

The Bulldogs also hit 12 3-pointers and turned it over just eight times in the 81-66 victory over the Braves at the Scottrade Center.

“When you’re a good shooter and not making shots, you need to continue to hear you’re a good shooter, believe you’re a good shooter and act like you’re a good shooter,” Drake coach Mark Phelps said of Gary Ricks’ shooting night. “All season he has acted like a good shooter and tonight the shots started to fall for him. Everyone has confidence in him as a shooter.”

Bradley had four players in double figures but only got seven points from its bench in the loss. Drake was led by Chris Hines’ 16 points, but Ricks (14) and Joey King (15) combined to score 29 points off the bench for the Bulldogs, who led 41-32 at the break.

“Over the past few weeks we’ve put a lot of work into our game and wer’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” King said. “We’ve won four out of five after a little hiccup with Southern Illinois and just wanted to get back on the right track and play well tonight.”

Bradley led 9-8 about eight minutes into the game but Drake used a 16-4 run to take control. King scored eight points during that stretch as the Bulldogs went up 22-13 and never looked back.

The lead grew as large as 17 in the first half and Drake (15-16, 7-11) led by nine at halftime.

Bradley closed the gap to three with 9:07 to play in the game and maintained a three-point deficit three minutes later.

Drake pulled away moments later though following a 13-0 run that featured four points from King, four free throws from Ben Simons and a 3-pointer from Hines. Bradley never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.

The Bulldogs went 2-1 against the Bears this season and will face Missouri Valley Conference regular season champion Creighton (24-7) in the quarterfinals today at 12:05 p.m. The two teams both won on their home floors during the regular season.