Drake men’s basketball returned from the Paradise Jam championship to the Knapp Center, where the Bulldogs faced off against Louisiana.
Saturday’s matchup featured two of just 26 undefeated teams – prior to tipoff – in NCAA Division I men’s basketball. But Louisiana saw its perfect record tarnished when Drake won, 76-64.
The Bulldogs took some time to warm up, missing shots from the paint early and trailed the Ragin Cajuns at times in the first half. Drake turned things around by the end of the opening frame and held a 40-23 lead at halftime.
But that wasn’t the most secure lead, especially considering that the Bulldogs were outscored in the second half of the final two Paradise Jam games. Louisiana kept things close in the second half, despite Drake picking up some points off fouls in the final minute.
"You come off a trip like that, the three games, with the travel and then you throw in Thanksgiving," Darian DeVries said of the win. "Just never know how the guys are going to respond. Louisiana (was) 5-0 and you watch them on tape, they're a really good basketball team and they showed that today."
D.J. Wilkins and Tucker DeVries each finished with 21 points, and the duo combined for six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Darnell Brodie had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Drake’s second half struggles
There's a bit of a trend developing that the Bulldogs might want to stop.
Drake was outplayed in the second half of two games in the Virgin Islands. Despite holding a 17-point lead at the half, the Bulldogs faced a similar issue against Louisiana.
At a media timeout about midway through the second half, Drake had seven turnovers to the Ragin Cajuns' two. Things didn’t improve as the time ticked down, like Louisiana forcing Drake to pick up two shot clock violations in the final minutes of play and moving within four points of the Bulldogs' lead.
Louisiana outscored Drake 41-36 in the second half. The Ragin Cajuns shot 63% from the field, while the Bulldogs hit just 37% of their shots.
"It's certainly something that we need to stop," Darian DeVries said. "Three games now that we've built up a pretty sizable lead at halftime and given it back. Figuring out different ways, especially for a veteran group like we have, we should be able to build on what we did in the first half and for whatever reason we haven't been able to do that."
Advantage from the arc
Wilkins and DeVries have already established themselves as reliable 3-point shooters. Sardaar Calhoun impressed early with his ability from beyond the arc and Okay Djamgouz is typically solid in limited minutes.
The Bulldogs' ability to knock them down from deep worked in Drake’s favor on Saturday, especially when they struggled to put up points in the paint early on. Louisiana outscored Drake 14-12 from the paint in the first half, a stat that wasn’t helped by the Bulldogs missing some traditionally easy layups.
Drake needed that advantage with the Ragin Cajuns' success down low. Louisiana shot 43.3% overall compared to 17.4% from 3-point range, but had the advantage in the paint, outscoring the Bulldogs 40-26. Drake made 41.7% of its shots from the field and 34.8% from 3-point range.
"That's part of our group this year," Tucker DeVries said. "I think we're a lot better perimeter team this year. We have a lot of guys shooting it well right now."
Alyssa Hertel is the college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Drake basketball takes down Louisiana for sixth straight win