By: Sammy Stava
Eighth seeded Drake faced off against ninth seeded Illinois State to tip-off the 30th edition of Arch Madness in St. Louis. The winner would get the challenging, yet huge opportunity of facing top seeded Northern Iowa in the Quarterfinals on Friday.
Starting off the MVC Tournament with a thrilling first 20 minutes, the game was 38-36 at halftime in favor of the Drake Bulldogs. Drake was 20 minutes away from setting up a third meeting with in-state rival Northern Iowa. Maybe they sensed it in the locker room, because the Bulldogs went on a 13-0 run to take a 51-36 lead opening up the second half.
However, Illinois State didn’t give up, as Dan Muller’s Redbirds were able to get it within six points in the final seven minutes of the game. Though, the second half deficit was too much to overcome, as Drake pulled away with a 75-65 victory.
The story of the college basketball postseason is “survive and advance”, and that’s what the Bulldogs were able to do on Thursday night to keep their season alive. Three players were in double figures, and as usual, Drake was led by sophomore forward Liam Robbins — who had a team-high 18 points.
Averaging just 52 points during their three-game losing streak to end the regular season, the offense came alive at just about the right time for Drake when they desperately needed it the most. “It was nice to see us get it opened up on the offensive end, head coach Darian DeVries said.
And while Drake may have lost at home in their regular season finale to Northern Iowa by a lopsided score of 70-43, senior guard Anthony Murphy believes that it’s going to be a different Bulldogs team showing up tomorrow. “You know, they came to the Knapp Center and got the victory. Like Coach said, they’re not going to see the same team. We’ve just got to come off strong and stay composed, Murphy said.
It’s going to be quite the challenge, because the winner of the No. 8 vs No. 9 game has never beaten the No. 1 seed the following day, but those games are almost always competitive.
Drake and Northern Iowa on Friday should be another indicator. Buckle up for an in-state rivalry to get Quarterfinal Friday underway. It all starts at noon on The Big 550 KTRS.