In an evenly matched game, there was one major difference between Drake and No. 24 Creighton on Friday night: The Bluejays had Doug McDermott, and the Bulldogs didn’t.
The 2012 Larry Bird Player of the Year had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Creighton survived a late Drake run to earn a 68-61 win in the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship quarterfinals in St. Louis.
The second seed Bluejays advance to tomorrow’s semifinal round. They will take on the winner of tonight’s quarterfinal game between Evansville and Missouri State.
“We happened to play one of the top 25 teams in the country tonight,” head coach Mark Phelps said. “But I thought we gave them a good game.”
For the second night in a row, Drake got off to fast start. The Bulldogs scored the game’s first nine points and jumped out to a 12-2 lead.
Creighton responded and eventually tied the game at 16 with 12:20 left in the first half. The contest then became a back-and-forth affair. Antoine Young’s runner in the lane over redshirt junior Jordan Clarke gave the Bluejays a 35-34 lead at the break.
McDermott, who had 17 points in the second half, outscored the entire Drake team during the first 12:41 of the second half. He had 10 points during that stretch while the Bulldogs only scored eight.
With 3:56 remaining, Creighton led 61-50. Drake did not go down without a fight.
Sophomore Rayvonte Rice and senior Kurt Alexander led Drake on a spirited comeback to pull the Bulldogs within 63-60 with 1:24 left. A McDermott put-back bucket on a Creighton misfire from beyond the arc put the Bluejays back up five.
The Bulldogs ran out of gas, and Creighton closed out the victory.
“It was a real battle, and a very even game throughout,” Phelps said. “For us, the scoring drought in the second half became a situation that was tough to overcome.”
Rice had 15 points while Alexander added 14. Junior Ben Simons had 11 points, and he made the only Drake 3-point shot on the night. The team was 1-of-15 from beyond the arc.
Clarke had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Drake. He was one of the reasons that the Bulldogs had a 34-30 advantage in the paint on a night that McDermott was nearly unstoppable.
“He (Clarke) did everything he possibly could to set the tone, set the example for our guys,” Phelps said.
Drake finished the season at 17-15. The Bulldogs will likely receive an invitation to play in the postseason College Basketball Invitational.
The Bulldogs shot 33.3 percent in the second half. Young added 16 points for Creighton.
“We can walk out with our heads held high knowing that we left it all out on the court,” Clarke said.
In other quarterfinal action, top seed and No. 14 Wichita State cruised to a 72-48 win over eighth seed Indiana State. The Shockers advance to face fourth seed Illinois State, which handled fifth seed Northern Iowa, 54-42.