DES MOINES, Iowa – A 10-point run at the start of the second half help vault Drake to a 79-66 win over SIUE in the first game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
SIUE drops to 2-6 with the loss. Drake improved to 7-2. The Cougars continue tournament play on the road at Washington State Wednesday night.
Jaylen McCoy scored 12 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting.
"He did some really good things," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "What you don't see on the stat sheet is deflections and defensive presence. He did a really good job on the defensive end."
SIUE got a combined 21 points from five bench players.
"Our guys off the bench did some good things and brought some energy," Harris added. "I give those guys a lot of credit."
The Cougars stayed close with the Bulldogs for the majority of the first half and led by four after a three-pointer by McCoy with 11:44 left. Drake led 40-32 at halftime.
The 10-0 run at the start of the second period put the Bulldogs in front 50-32. They would lead by as many as 20 (56-36) before the Cougars made a run to close the gap to single digits.
"We had a breakdown that was on us," Harris said. "I give Drake credit for executing, but there were some basic defensive principles which we broke down on. We gave up too many baskets, specifically layups to start the second half."
SIUE scored the next eight straight points and made a 15-4 run over the next five-plus minutes to trim the lead to 60-51. Drake pushed the lead back to double digits on a Nick Norton layup which made it 64-53 with 6:19 to play and the Cougars never pulled within single digits again.
Norton led Drake with 15 points. Nick McGlynn scored 13, D.J. Wilkins added 12 and Anthony Murphy scored 11.
The Cougars forced 20 Bulldog turnovers but manages only 15 points as a result. SIUE finished with a season-high 13 steals. It was the most in a game for the Cougars since the 2016 season opener at Hawaii.
"We did a good job on the defensive end, forcing turnovers," Harris said. "We have to capitalize on those more."
The Cougars will meet the Cougars of Washington State in a 9:30 CT game Wednesday.
"Washington State is a good team," Harris said. "It is a high-powered offense. It is a quick turnaround but another opportunity for us to take a step forward."