50 years to the day of their last NCAA Tournament victory, Drake has again claimed a win in the Big Dance as the Bulldogs twice came from nine points down to defeat Wichita State 53-52 in the First Four at Mackey Arena.
Joseph Yusefu scored a team-high 21 points as Drake (26-4) advanced to a first-round matchup with sixth seed USC in the West Region. Tremell Murphy added 11 points for the Bulldogs.
Morris Udeze led Wichita State (16-6) with 22 points while Dexter Dennis had 13 and Alterique Gilbert added 10 as the Shockers shot just 33.9 percent from the field.
Drake rallies past Wichita State for win half-century in the making
DJ Wilkins opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, and Garrett Sturtz converted in the paint moments later to give Drake an early 5-2 lead.
The Bulldogs offense soon screeched to a halt as they scored justy one point over the next 9:56. Wichita State rattled off a 16-1 run to claim an 18-6 lead, the Shockers' largest of the contest.
Darnell Brodie stemmed the tide with a basket, and DJ Hemphill – making his first appearance since foot surgery sidelined him on February 11th, scored on a jumper as Drake settled into the game again.
Yesufu took over from there, floating home a baseline attempt before slamming a poster dunk moments later. He put the exclamation point on Drake's 10-0 run to close the half with a leaning 3-pointer in the closing seconds to cut the Wichita State lead to 21-20.
The second half mirrored the opening frame as Brodie powered up an and-one layup to knot the game at 23, only for Drake to experience another scoring drought as the Bulldogs went scoreless for 6:56 as Wichita State rattled off nine consecutive points.
Yesufu delivered another floater in the paint, but the Shockers answered with five unanswered points to match their largest lead of the contest at 37-25.
Murphy brought the Bulldogs back as the senior bookended a 12-5 exchange with a pair of three-pointers. He then threaded the needle to Issa Samake for a dunk as Drake pulled to within three.
Yesufu continued to come up big as he scored five more points to slash Wichita State's lead to 45-44 with 5:11 remaining, but the game-defining sequence occurred soon after.
Drake grinded out a defensive possession in which Wichita State missed four point-blank attempts before Brodie secured the rebound. Yesufu pushed in transition and dumped it to the forward for a go-ahead layup with 4:15 to go.
Udeze then gave the Shockers the lead with a layup inside, but Sturtz found Murphy for a go-ahead 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
On their next possession, Sturtz collected an offensive rebound, before Brodie converted a clutch turnaround 15-footer to put Drake ahead 51-47 with 1:02 remaining.
Following an exchange of points on a Wichita State layup and a pair of Yesufu free throws, Wilkins forced a turnover, but the Shockers quickly regained possession and nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 53-52 with eight seconds left.
Drake misfired on the front end of a one-and-one, but the Shockers' 3-pointer at the buzzer hit front rim and caromed away, sealing Drake's first NCAA Tournament win 50 years to the day of their last.
Drake post-game comments
Bulldogs head coach Darian Devries said after the game "i'm really excited for our guys and our program. It wasn't the prettiest game in the world, but I thought our guys really had to show some resiliency to hang with it in both halves when we got down double digits. They continued to stay with it and believe in one another and pull out a very hard-fought game.
"In our timeouts, our focus was really on our defense. Just keep guarding to keep us in this. because we'll break free at some point. You've just got to trust it. We got enough stops to not let it get out of reach, and I thought that was maybe the biggest key of the game was just our ability to stay within striking distance.
"It's been a long time and our guys knew that. Getting the opportunity to be here, it's something these kids dream about. To get a win for our program that hasn't happened in 50 years, it's really exciting. These guys have fought through so much, and for them to be the ones who were able to get a win, I think it's really deserving."
Yesufu added that "it was a collective effort. Tremell with his big shot, DJ with his amazing defense on a great player, Brodie crashing the boards. We all played roles."
Wichita State post-game quotes
Shockers head coach Isaac Brown, the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, expressed his feelings following his team's defeat.
"Want to give Drake all the credit", he said. "They played great tonight. They defended at a high level. We were only able to get 52 points. I thought we defended at a high level as well, holding them to 53.
"I thought the key to the game was we missed free throws. We probably missed eight to 10 free throws. We didn't do a good job of sticking our landing on rebounds.
"Like we would check them out, have a good stop. And all of a sudden the ball would bounce out of bounds and it would be their ball. So that happened eight to ten times.
"We tried to keep going to our big, inside. He did a great job scoring tonight. They did a great job on Tyson just basically like a box and one, not allowing him to get the ball. But I give them all the credit. They played well."