For the first time in history, a No. 1 seed has lost in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) men’s basketball tournament.
No. 8-seeded Drake University rode a hot hand in the first half to upset No. 1-seeded University of Northern Iowa 77-56 at Enterprise Center Friday afternoon. This is the first time a No. 8 seed has advanced to the semifinals in tournament history.
The Bulldogs shot 58.6 percent in the first half — including 6-for-10 from three-point territory — to take a 43-33 halftime lead. Northern Iowa almost closed the gap to 50-48 with 12:36 remaining. But Drake, which entered as a 9.5-point underdog, outscored the Panthers 27-8 the rest of the way to pull off the stunner.
“Northern Iowa has had a tremendous year,” said Drake head coach Darian DeVries. “We didn’t have quite the year we wanted to, but today was just one 40-minute game, and whoever’s better after these 40 minutes gets to play on. That was our challenge to [the players] is just be the best us we can be today, and we’ll take the results.”
Drake redshirt sophomore guard Roman Penn led all scorers with 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting. Bulldogs sophomore forward Liam Robbins — who was named the MVC’s most improved player — scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Northern Iowa sophomore guard AJ Green, who was named MVC Player of the Year March 4, scored 19 points on 8-for-25 shooting. The Panthers entered the tournament with the best record in the league at 25-5 overall and 14-4 in MVC play. They will receive the MVC’s automatic bid to the National Invitation Tournament if they don’t receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament because they won the regular season.
Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson made his case for an at-large bid after the game.
“What a four months that these guys have put together,” said Jacobson, the 2020 MVC Coach of the Year. “That’s all of the resume, except for today. And I bring that up because this is going to have an impact on it. Any time you lose a game … those games are going to impact where you stand.”
Drake advances to the semifinal round March 7 against the winner of No. 4-seeded Bradley University and No. 5-seeded Southern Illinois University, which is set to tip off at 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.