Bitter Bulldog face: Drake falls to Bradley, Lemon Jr

PEORIA, Ill. – Falling into a 19-2 hole, the Drake men’s basketball team had too much ground to cover in a 67-58 loss to Bradley Saturday in Missouri Valley Conference play at Carver Arena.

The Bulldogs pulled within four but never drew closer, despite a career-best 27 points from Aaron Hawley.

Walt Lemon Jr. poured in a career-high 21 points – including 11 straight in the second half – to help the Braves (6-9, 1-1) snap a seven-game skid.

“For whatever reason we were not physically tough enough to start the game, it’s just that simple,” said Drake coach Ray Giacoletti. “We’ve got to be better in those situations and we turned the ball over 15 times which led to run-outs and transition baskets for them.”

Winners in its last four, Drake (10-4, 1-1) went scoreless through the first 5:15 of the game as Bradley staked a 12-0 lead. The Bulldogs outscored the Braves 26-15 over the final 13 minutes to trail 34-28 at the half.

Drake struck first in the second half before Lemon scored the next seven points to push the margin back to 11 in the next 1:30. Jordan Daniels brought the Bulldogs back within 57-49 with 5:26 to play before Lemon took over.

Hawley’s triple at the 1:04 mark cut the deficit to 66-57, before a Lemon dunk and Drake turnover ended any comeback hopes. Hawley finished 9-of-13 from the field and shot 4-for-7 from deep.

“Aaron did a good job and gave us a great lift,” Giacoletti said. “Without him tonight this could have gotten real ugly. But we’ve got to go back to making easy plays and making something happen to get easier looks.”

Bradley earned a 32-10 advantage for points in the paint and dominated Drake in points off turnovers (27-12) and second chance points (16-2). Chris Caird added nine points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Daniels scored eight.

The Braves converted 12-of-17 field goals (71 percent) in the second half and shot 25-for-48 (52 percent) in the game. Drake missed 13 of its 21 shots in the first half and shot 44 percent (17-of-39) on the night.

Tyshon Pickett and Omari Grier scored eight apiece for Bradley. Pickett had six steals and Auston Barnes grabbed a game-high nine boards.

The Bulldogs continue MVC play Wednesday when they host Indiana State (11-3, 2-0) at 7:05 p.m.