The Drake Bulldogs put a stop to any hopes the Missouri State Bears had of tying for the Missouri Valley Conference championship, pulling away in the second half to win 73-62 Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena.
The Bears, who trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, got a three pointer from Josh Webster with 1:01 left before halftime to go ahead 34-33 at the intermission.
But the Bulldogs went on an 11-2 run to open the second half and pull out to a 44-38 lead.
Missouri State cut the lead to three, 48-45, when Keandre Cook hit a shot, was fouled, and made a free throw with 12:22 left in regulation.
MSU trailed by four when Bears Coach Dana Ford was whistled for a technical foul at the 10:17 mark.
The Bulldogs made both free throws from the technical to go up 54-48.
MSU got it down to a five point deficit on two more occasions, and trailed by six when Josh Webster made a free throw with 4:35 to go, making it a 60-54 game.
But a bucket by Garrett Sturtz and back to back three pointers from Brady Ellingson and Anthony Murphy allowed Drake to increase its lead to 14 points and pull away.
MSU shot a dismal 32% from the field, hitting 21 of 65 attempts and going 8-23 from beyond the arc.
Senior Jarred Dixon, playing his last regular season game in front of a packed crowd of 7,894 at JQH Arena, finished with 18 points to lead the Bears.
Tulio Da Silva added 17 and Cook put in ten points for MSU.
Nick McGlynn was a force inside all afternoon for Drake, and finished with a game high 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Drake, who clinches a tie for the league title with Loyola (Loyola gets the #1 seed in the Valley Tournament), improves to 23-8 overall, finishing 12-6 in the Valley.
The Bears drop to 16-15 overall and wrap up conference play 10-8.
“Very disappointed, just disappointed,” a quiet and subdued Ford said to start his postgame press conference. “I’m disappointed that I couldn’t do a better job to help those seniors get a conference championship when they were knocking on the door with four games left, three at home. I’m disappointed about that.”
Ford says he’ll take Sunday off, regroup and “lick my wounds.”
Dixon, who got a standing ovation when he was taken out of the game, tried to look at positives. “Maybe if we would have won the game, we probably would have not been as motivated to go to St. Louis and win three games in three days. You look around the country every year. Every team that wins the regular season doesn’t always win the conference tournament.”
Kreklow says there was a lot of emotion with Saturday’s finale. “One last game with my guys here at The Q. You want to win, but I’m just happy to be out there playing another game here. We’ll take what happened and we’ll reflect on it, but at the end of the day, it’s a new season right now. Everything that just happened, that’s done with, and we’ve got a tournament to look forward to.”
Missouri State will be the fourth seed in next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis after finishing in a tie with Southern Illinois for third place in the league.
The tie will officially be broken when Sunday’s NET rankings come out, but going into Saturday, the Salukis had a 145 rating and the Bears were 157.
Southern Illinois won its game Saturday, defeating Illinois State 72-63.
Missouri State will play Bradley in the quarterfinals at approximately 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Enterprise Center.
Saturday’s announced attendance of 7,894 is the largest crowd for a Bears game at JQH Arena since January 21, 2015, when 8,674 fans watched 14th ranked Wichita State beat MSU 76-53.
This is the third straight loss for Missouri State on Senior Day at The Q.
Both of MSU’s losses to Drake this season have been by 11 points, with nearly identical scores (a 74-63 defeat in Des Moines on January 20th and a 73-62 defeat on Saturday in Springfield).
Dixon’s three treys Saturday give him 101 for his career, including a career best 43 this season.