Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tom Davis Is 'Very Disappointed For the Fans' That Drake Wasn't More Competitive Against A Cyclone Team That Put On An Outstanding Knapp Center Show

Tom Davis said today he’s “very disappointed for the fans” that his Drake basketball team didn’t put on a better performance last night against Iowa State.

“This was probably the best student response we’ve had in my three seasons here,” said Davis [pictured on the right]. “And the rest of the fans, who responded to the fact that our team has played pretty hard and pretty well, made it a great crowd in the Knapp Center.

“To come out and not be any more competitive than we were, I was disappointed.”

A boisterous gathering of 6,118 – although 884 below capacity – watched Iowa State turn in an eye-opening show that produced an 89-74 victory over the Bulldogs.

Most of the fans were cheering for Drake, but there were some Iowa State followers present, too, on a snowy night—-but not enough dressed in Cyclone cardinal-and-gold to make it a sellout in the renewal of the state’s oldest collegiate basketball rivalry .

Davis and I had our own one-on-one interview session this morning to rehash the game, which left 3-point underdog Iowa State with a 5-2 record and Drake at 4-2.

I was the only caller during Davis’ segment on the Missouri Valley Conference’s coaches’ teleconference.

When I asked Davis if any of his feelings had changed about the game after a night to think about it, he said, “Good question. That’s exactly how I approach it, and how all coaches approach it. You re-evaluate things and second-guess yourself all the time.

“You say to yourself, ‘Oh, I could have played this player or used this defense or that strategy.’ I understand our players are young and we have some guys who got a little rattled going through [a game like Monday’s] for the first time.”

Davis also said, “You never know as a coach after a game how much blame to put on your own team or how much credit to give the opponent. It’s always an iffy question, but Iowa State played very, very well.”


I know the Cyclones surprised me.

After watching Iowa State and Drake play earlier, I felt the Bulldogs had a very good chance of ending a three-game losing streak in the series.

Especially after Iowa State had lost two of its previous three games at home this season, to Iona and Fresno State.

But the Cyclones were simply too quick, too good defensively and shot too well at the Knapp Center. That combination smothered any chance Drake had.

The Bulldogs’ student crowd was impressive, but those fans could have made enough noise to raise the roof of the Knapp Center without hampering anything Iowa State did.

There may be a better set of collegiate guards in the nation than Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock, but they’ll do until someone points them out. In Rahshon Clark [who scored 26 points and had seven rebounds, four steals and three blocks], coach Wayne Morgan [on the left, disputing a call in the last half to referee John Higgins in an interesting AP photo by my old friend Steve Pope] has a big-time forward.

Certainly the Cyclones miss having Jared Homan impersonating an aircraft carrier in the middle, but 6-11, 225-pound sophomore Jiri Hubalek of Prague in the Czech Republic, did nothing to embarrass himself—-scoring 14 points and nabbing seven rebounds.

I’m looking forward to Iowa State’s game Friday night against Iowa at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

It’s going to be a good one.


Because of the presence of Stinson and Blalock, who combined for 39 points, 18 assists and seven steals, the pressure was on first-year Drake guard Al Stewart in last night’s game.

When I asked Davis today what kinds of things Stewart still needs to learn, he said, “As I think back, I thought Al handled their press real well. They’ve been pretty storng with their pressure defense, and we didn’t handle it well last year in Ames [in a 73-46 loss].

I think Al deserves a lot of credit [for what he did last night]. He ran the offense pretty well. But when you go to this level from junior college, you’re not used to defending big, strong physical guards. [Stinson and Blalock] have good quickness as well. The biggest adjustment [by Stewart and others] has to be made on the defensive end of the court.”


I was surrounded by members of the electronic media at press row throughout the game.

On my left was Larry Morgan, the veteran TV and radio play-by-play announcer from the Des Moines area who is the main broadcaster on the tube of Iowa’s games again this season, and also does some Hawkeye football games on TV.

On my right were Steve Deace and Larry Cotlar. Deace is the afternoon/evening sports talk show host on radio station KXNO, and Cotlar is that station’s morning man.

I go back a long way with Morgan, a good guy and an outstanding announcer, when it comes to Drake basketball. Indeed, the Missouri Valley Conference has changed a lot since we roamed that circuit. He then was doing radio play-by-play on Bulldog games, and I was in an earlier writing life.

In the Bob Ortegel coaching era, we traveled to such interesting Valley cities as Amarillo, TX, and Las Cruces, N.M. That’s when West Texas State and New Mexico State were in the league.

“Do you miss Amarillo?” Morgan asked during the game.

“No, but I miss Las Cruces,” I told him.

Las Cruces was always a favorite stop for folks [certainly I was one of them] from the midwest in about mid-January, when the temperature there was 60 to 70 there and 10 below zero here.

Morgan and I recalled fondly how Ortegel would invite us to dine with Drake’s coaches and players at the late-afternoon pregame meal on road trips.

During last night’s game, both Morgan and I kept waiting for Drake to rally in the last half. But when Iowa State built its lead to 83-64 inside of the final 3 minutes, both of us knew there would be no rally.


But, Drake rally or not, please.....No more talk by anyone of ever ending the Drake-Iowa State rivalry. When two schools have played 165 games since 1908, the series should continue forever.


Hardly a day goes by, it seems, without Paul Morrison getting another award.

Morrison is Drake’s 88-year-old volunteer sports historian. He has been in just about every job at the university except president of the school, and he knows more about Drake history than anyone.

Last night, he got another award. He was presented a Drake letter jacket by athletic director Dave Blank at halftime of the game.

“It was a real surprise,” Morrison told me today. “I hadn’t heard anything about it. I guess nobody wanted to tip me off ahead of time.

“The jacket has a big ‘D’ on it, my name is on the front and, on one sleeve, are the numerals ’39. That’s the year I graduated from Drake.

“I got an honorary ‘D’ a long time ago, but this jacket really surprised me.”

Morrison, who has been watching Drake-Iowa State games almost since fans wore high-button shoes in the peach-basket era, said, “I knew Iowa State was tough, but I didn’t realize they were that good defensively. With those two guards [Stinson and Blalock], I can’t imagine them losing many games this season.

“We didn’t play that poorly, but Iowa State’s shooting was phenomenal.”