Drake basketball fans waited 13 years for this. Whatever this was.
In the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, the Drake Bulldogs emerged from the chaos with a 53-52 win over Wichita State on Thursday night in the First Four.
The Bulldogs advance to play USC in a 6 vs. 11 contest on Saturday afternoon.
In a matchup that would have felt more at home two weeks earlier in St. Louis, the former Missouri Valley Conference foes met for the first time in four years. Unlike their previous 11 meetings, the Bulldogs got it done. After Joseph Yesufu missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 5 seconds left, Wichita State had the ball down one with a chance to win. Alterique Gilbert pulled up — perhaps a second earlier than he needed to — and unleashed what could have been a game-winning three. Instead, the ball bounced off the front of the rim, sending Drake into the West Region.
Here’s how we got to that final sequence:
The game was mostly ugly
This game was hideous for about 33 minutes. Wichita State played suffocating defense and Drake did itself no favors, taking bad shots and going long stretches without field goals. During one stretch in the first half, the Bulldogs missed 10 straight shots and were stuck on just six points. Even after they went on a run to end the half and pull within a point, they reverted to their old habits in the second half, letting Wichita State extend the lead again. Darnell Brodie made a jumper 30 seconds into the second half but Drake did not make another field goal for nearly seven minutes
Tyson Etienne was a virtual non-factor on offense
The Shockers’ leading scorer and the AAC co-Player of the Year didn’t score a point until more than midway through the second half when he split a pair of free throws. By then, he was 0-6 from the field with three fouls and a turnover. He committed his fourth mere seconds later and did not score again.
Etienne still made his presence known on the other end, playing a key role in a stifling defensive effort.
Lot of great on-ball defenders on this Wichita State team.— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) March 18, 2021
Tyson Etienne is one of them and has such quick feet on the defensive end. Small clip here showing it, but he has the foot speed to stay in front of most college guards. pic.twitter.com/Zj7o3JoZF5
On offense, Wichita State instead leaned on Morris Udeze, who was nearly unstoppable when he got looks, going 8-13 from the field with 22 points. Dexter Dennis (13) and Gilbert (10) were the Shockers’ other double-digit scorers.
Joseph Yesufu gave Drake its One Shining Moment
No matter what happens from here, Drake is guaranteed a clip on this year’s One Shining Moment montage. Yesufu threw down the dunk of the tournament so far (two games in) right here:
Throw me through the damn floor, Joseph.
Actually, Yesufu was also key to Drake’s second-half comeback
By key I mean “it was pretty much Yesufu.” He scored 10 points over a five-minute stretch that saw the Bulldogs go from down 10 to up one. When Drake took the lead on a layup from Darnell Brodie, it was its first advantage since the score was 5-2 — or since we were all locked on the ending to the Texas Southern vs. Mount St. Mary’s game. Yesufu didn’t have his most efficient night, but he put up numbers and was clutch when his team needed him. He played all 40 minutes and scored 21 points.
ShanQuan Hemphill is working his way back
Drake’s leading scorer had not played since breaking his foot on Feb. 10 but played in this one despite only returning to practice this week. Head coach Darien DeVries said before the game that Hemphill’s role would be minimal and he was not a factor in this game. Hemphill didn’t start, played 10 minutes, and went 1-3 from the field for three points.