AWith a spot in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament championship game on the line, No. 2 seed Drake University (24-8, 12-6) will face off against No. 6 seed University of Northern Iowa (15-17, 9-9) Saturday night at 5 p.m.
The two teams split their two games during the regular season, with Northern Iowa winning the first matchup by three points while Drake taking the second game by six.
The Bulldogs dominated Illinois State University 78-62 in their first game of the tournament. However, Drake senior forward Nick McGlynn — who finished second in the MVC Player of the Year voting and was named MVC Defensive Player of the Year — went down with a sprained MCL nine minutes into the game and will miss the remainder of the MVC Tournament, according to a press release.
“These guys have a tremendous belief in one another,” Drake head coach Darian DeVries said following the Bulldogs’ win over Illinois State. “They don’t care who gets the credit. They just love to compete. Whatever guy we throw out there, they’ve prepared themselves … none of these guys care at all about anything but winning, and that’s what I think you saw today.”
Drake will be without McGlynn’s 15.2 points per game and an MVC-best 8.3 rebounds per game. McGlynn only scored two points in seven minutes of action before the injury, but first-year forward Tremell Murphy stepped up for the Bulldogs, scoring 26 points while also grabbing seven rebounds.
For Northern Iowa, the Panthers narrowly escaped Southern Illinois due in large part to senior guard Wyatt Lohaus and his 21 points and five rebounds.
“It’s awesome,” Lohaus, the lone senior on Northern Iowa’s roster, said. “I want to keep playing as long as we can here at the end. To win a tough game like that the way we did, it feels really good.”
MVC Freshman of the Year A.J. Green struggled against the Salukis, scoring six points on 3-of-8 shooting. On the season, Green is averaging a team-high 14.9 points per game. The guard hit a fadeaway jumper to give the Panthers a 59-58 lead with 12 seconds remaining in the game.
Against Loyola Feb. 27, Green missed a game winning shot in the final seconds, but Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson had confidence in Green to take another key shot with the season hanging in the balance.
“I told him we’ll take that in that same situation, we’ll take him with the ball in his hands … we’ll take that every single time,” Jacobson said following the win over Southern Illinois. “That’s all I told him, and he said, ‘I got you, Coach.’”
Drake enters the semifinal matchup on a hot streak, winning seven of their last eight games. However, the Bulldogs have recently lost both McGlynn and first-year guard D.J. Wilkins to injuries. Wilkins was declared out for the remainder of the season after suffering a broken bone in his left ankle during the second half of the Bulldogs’ final regular season game against Missouri State University March 2, according to a press release. Despite the injuries, Jacobson said he’s not overlooking the Bulldogs and their supporting cast.
“Even given the injuries, it’s obvious that [Drake’s] not ready to be done,” Jacobson said. “So it’s going to be a heck of a game. Both games with them this year were close, and we got one, they got one.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m., following the first semifinal game between Loyola and Bradley University. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.