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Drake Men’s Basketball competes in Arch Madness

Photo by Joshua Bruer | Staff Photographer

Despite not having senior guard D.J. Wilkins for the Bulldogs, Drake utilized a second half offensive surge to defeat Southern Illinois, 65-52, on Friday, March 4. This win allowed the team to advance to the semifinal round of Arch Madness, the MVC Tournament. 

The Bulldogs were able to beat the Salukis for the third time this season, but the effort and game plan was not always pretty.

Both teams struggled offensively throughout the first half as Drake and Southern Illinois took advantage of turnovers to score most of their points in the early going. But this did not last long, as SIU senior forward Marcus Domask and the Salukis began to take charge. 

With three minutes remaining in the first half, Southern Illinois led by seven points thanks to 12 first-half points from Domask, and the Bulldogs were searching for answers. Thanks to Drake seniors guard Roman Penn and forward ShanQuan Hemphill, the Bulldogs made some key baskets at the end of the first half.

Drake ended up holding onto the lead going into the locker room. However, the real story of the game for Drake began in the second half behind great offensive performances from Hemphill and recently named Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, Tucker DeVries. 

The biggest question coming into this game was who would step up for the Bulldogs after the injury to star guard D.J. Wilkins who had averaged more than 15 points per game over the previous four games before tearing his ACL in the regular season finale. 

Hemphill, who averaged 14 points per game last year as a starter, scored a season high 19 points for the Bulldogs. His ability to finish at the rim and make free throws—an area he has been inconsistent with this year — was the difference maker in this game. Lastly, forward Tucker DeVries displayed why he was one of the nation’s top recruits before committing to play for Drake last year. DeVries finished with 13 points — 11 of those coming in the second half— as he was making difficult shots with the ease of an NBA player. 

It was an impressive showing from the freshman, as this year marks his first experience in the world of “March Madness” as a player. DeVries and the Bulldogs will look to continue their hot streak as they play Missouri State at 5 p.m. this afternoon in the semifinal matchup of the MVC tournament.

Semifinal: 

New year, same result: Drake needs overtime (OT) to defeat the Missouri State Bears 79-78 in a rematch of last year’s semifinal tournament matchup. 

The story of the game for Drake was freshman Tucker DeVries who scored 23 points — including two free throws to win it for the Bulldogs with 1.1 seconds remaining in OT.

Despite being a first-year player for Drake, Tucker DeVries has stepped up time and time again during this season.

“I had confidence in making those shots, and shoutout to my teammates for wanting me to be at the line in a situation like that,” DeVries said,referencing his game winning free throws. 

Missouri State has now lost two years in a row to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament with both losses coming down to the final seconds.

However, the Bears were confident before entering this matchup as they had defeated the Bulldogs two times earlier this season. The stars of Missouri State showed up, as junior guard Isiaih Mosley dropped 27 points while center Gaige Prim scored 21 points — 19 of the 21 coming after the first half. 

It was a back and forth battle the entire game, but the Bears ultimately struggled to create offense outside of these two players. However, junior Donovan Clay did force overtime for the Bears as he made a layup with 0.4 seconds remaining in regulation — the biggest play of the game for Missouri State.

Fortunately for Drake, Tucker DeVries stepped up and took over in OT, scoring seven of the Bulldogs’ eleven points — including a dagger three-point shot with 92 seconds remaining to give Drake a three-point lead. Despite the heroics from DeVries, it was an all-around team effort as Drake was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line in crunch time — which included four made free throws from point guard Roman Penn.

The Bulldogs survive and advance, and they will now look to capture their first Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship since 2008 against a familiar foe — the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers who defeated the Bulldogs in last year’s championship game.

Championship: 

Loyola-Chicago defeated Drake 64-58 to earn an automatic bid to the 2022 NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. 

It is the second year in a row these two teams have met in the championship game, and Bulldogs have now faltered both times versus the Ramblers.

Drake started the game off hot, as the Bulldogs forced turnovers and scored most of their points in transition. The lead was as large as nine at one point for Drake, but then things quickly went south. Loyola went on a 19-0 run during the middle portion of the first half which gave them a lead of nine at one point as well. 

Senior point guard Roman Penn commented on this moment during the post-game press conference stating that his team “cannot expect to win against a great team in Loyola” with a scoring drought that long.

Despite the Ramblers going on a huge scoring run, Drake was able to finish the first half strong and cut the lead to two points. This gave the Bulldogs confidence and composure going into halftime which was much needed after some struggles for a majority of the first half. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs did not mount any big run out of the break.

Freshman Tucker DeVries scored 15 points for the Bulldogs — but only five in the second half as Loyola was tremendous on the defensive end all game long. Penn chipped in with 18 points, but the real story of the game was the free throw shooting of Drake.

Free throws are what got Drake to the championship — but ended up being a struggle in the final game. The Bulldogs shot 11-18 from the free throw line including three missed one and one opportunities in the second half. The depth of the Ramblers proved to be too much for the Bulldogs as Drake seemed to run out of gas. 

The tournament MVP was awarded to Loyola’s Lucas Williamson who scored 18 points and also displayed his high-level defensive skills throughout Sunday’s victory. The Bulldogs will look to next year, as they finish the season 24-10.

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