The Drake Bulldogs started their season off by doing something special. Not only did they win each of their first 13 games of the year, but they also managed to cover the spread every time out. An undefeated run is always something to aspire to, but going undefeated and not missing a single spread is something that is nearly unheard of. The Bulldogs saw their season get derailed by a COVID-19 outbreak inside the program, that cost them almost a month’s worth of action.
They returned to the hardwood last night, with a tough task at hand, as they had to play at Missouri State, against a Tigers team that was 9-1 on the season and in second place in the MVC standings. While it was certainly a tough spot for Drake, as they were sure to be rusty after missing so many games, the data told us that Drake was the far superior team in this matchup, so I backed the Bulldogs on the road, laying -3-points and expected a hard-fought win and cover.
We had a good second half tonight …
More on improving to 14-0 with a gritty road win at Missouri State
— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) January 27, 2021
And that is exactly what happened. Missouri State came out strong in the first half, running up a big lead, but in the second half, it was all Bulldogs, as they came roaring back to win the game and cover the spread, 68-61. It was the 14th consecutive victory for Drake, and the Bulldogs continued their absurd stretch of covering every spread as well. More importantly, for Drake’s NCAA tournament hopes, the Bulldogs remained a game ahead of Loyola-Chicago in the loss column for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
The Missouri Valley is as strong as it has ever been right now, with Loyola-Chicago and Drake both looking like potential at-large bid worthy squads and teams like Bradley, Northern Iowa, Indiana State, and Missouri State all looking like teams capable of competing with the best mid-major teams in the nation. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will stay right here in the Missouri Valley, as the action heats back up for game two of the back-to-back series between Drake and Missouri State.
- Drake Bulldogs (14-0) at Missouri State Bears (9-2)
- JQH Arena, Springfield
- 6:00 PM PST
- TV: ESPN3
The Missouri State Bears are hoping to rebound after suffering a home loss last night to the Drake Bulldogs and will get their shot at revenge tonight as they play the Bulldogs in the second half of a back-to-back from JQH Arena in Springfield, Missouri. The Bears led by as many as 17-points in the first half but struggled badly in the second half against Drake, and the loss was just their second of the season and their first in nearly a month. A loss tonight would all but eliminate the Bears from the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference title chase.
— Missouri State Basketball (@MSUBearsHoops) January 27, 2021
For Drake, the Bulldogs were just happy to be playing, as they missed nearly a full month of play due to a COVID-19 related outbreak, and the win was just the cherry on top for the Bulldogs. Drake ran their undefeated record to 14-0 with the victory and will have to play catch up to the rest of the league after missing so many games. A win tonight would set the stage for a showdown with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers for the regular season MVC title, as the two teams square off in Des Moines for a pair of games coming up in mid-February.
Drake Bulldogs (14-0)
As shaky as Drake looked in the first half yesterday after playing their first game in several weeks, they sure did figure things out in the second half. Drake allowed just 20-points in the second half as they really locked the Bears down on defense. The Bulldogs have made a name for themselves this year with their elite shooting, but yesterday it was the defense that won them the game.
Missouri State has been one of the best shooting teams in the nation this season, and to see Drake completely shut them down in the second half had to be scary for the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference to watch. Drake was already scary with their ability to shoot the lights out, but if they can defend too, they just might be a lot better than everyone thinks.
Missouri State Bears (9-2)
What has to be frustrating for Missouri State last night wasn’t just that they blew a huge lead in what would have been by far their biggest win of the season, it’s that, in reality, they played their best game and still lost. The two best players for the Bears this season have been Gaige Prim and Isiaih Mosley. Prim had a monster night, scoring 18 points and grabbing a season-high 16 rebounds. Mosley had a double-double as well, scoring 17 points and adding in 10 boards.
Where the two stars for the Bears did struggle, though, was turnovers. They combined for 9 costly turnovers in the game, and the 16 turnovers on the night were the difference, especially in the second half. Missouri State hasn’t been great from the perimeter this season, and if they want a shot to pull off the upset tonight, they are going to have to be much better than the 2-14 from beyond the arc that they were in last night’s loss.
Who Do I Like?
I think what we saw in the second half of yesterday’s game is what we are going to see in the first half tonight. The Bulldogs were clearly rusty in the first half, and how can you blame them as they not only missed several games, but they also missed a bunch of practice time too. Once they knocked the rust off, this game wasn’t remotely competitive, and the Bulldogs essentially ran the Bears off of their own floor, outscoring them 42-20 in the second half.
Without any time to game plan or adjust, we are going to see basically the same scheme from both teams tonight, and that is bad news for Missouri State. I completely understand and respect how hard it is to beat a team twice in a season in league play, and having to do it on their home floor both times, is even harder. But a big reason why it is so hard to beat a team twice is because the losing team has a chance to go back and game plan for what went wrong. The Bears won’t get that opportunity tonight, as all they had time to do was scratch their heads, wonder what went wrong, and run it back.
While I don’t expect the Bears to just lay down and get blown out in this game, we saw in the second half last night that if Drake is playing at their best, that they are capable of running away from the Bears. When Missouri State saw the Bulldogs trying to make their comeback, they got desperate and started making ill-advised passes, and the turnovers started to really pile up. If they play that way from the start today, they are going to get smashed.
Expect Drake to look better tonight than they did early last night, and for the Bulldogs to win this one going away. If the Bears come out flat early, and they just might, this one could get out of hand. Give me the Drake Bulldogs tonight, laying -4-points on the road, as they pick up the season sweep of Missouri State. Let’s call it a 70-58 final score from Springfield.