Ryan Kreklow's 3-pointer with 1:31 left in the game gave Missouri State a lead they would not relinquish, as the Bears defeated Drake 69-67 in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Missouri State had seen a nine-point, second-half lead become a two-point deficit when Kreklow provided his heroics. The freshman from Columbia, Miss., finished with 13 points, making three of six shots from distance. Sophomore Chris Kendrix matched a career high with 21 points, making five of seven trifecta attempts.
The Bears (13-18) who have been hit with a rash of injuries and are playing with just nine players, seemed to 'run out of gas,' as Head Coach Paul Lusk described it, in coughing up the second half lead.
"I'm very, very pleased for my guys," said Lusk. "We've responded all year and we responded tonight. We're glad to live to fight another day."
Drake was dominant inside, outscoring the Bears 32 to 18 in the paint. Freshman Dominik Olejniczak scored 18 points and hauled in eight rebounds. Fellow forward Casey Schlatter scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out 11 assists.
Drake finishes the season with a record of 7-24, but Head Coach Ray Giacoletti is proud of his team.
"Tonight we dug ourselves a hole, but we made a really good run to get it back even," said Giacoletti. "Obviously we didn't get the win, but we did some things tonight that we can build on."
Missouri State survives to play second seeded Evansville. The Purple Aces swept the two regular season games with the Bears by an average of 18 points.