Drake vs Illinois State : The Drake Bulldogs and the Illinois State Redbirds meet in MVC college basketball action from the Redbird Arena on Sunday afternoon.The Drake Bulldogs will look to build on their current 4-game winning streak after a 77-68 win over Bradley in their last outing.
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Milik Yarbrough had 21 points as Illinois State defeated Drake 67-60 on Sunday.
Yarbrough also had seven turnovers but only four assists.Phil Fayne had 14 points and nine rebounds for Illinois State (15-14, 8-8 Missouri Valley Conference), which snapped its five-game losing streak. William Tinsley added 11 points. Keyshawn Evans had 10 points for the hosts.
Nick McGlynn had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs (21-8, 10-6), whose four-game win streak ended with the loss. Tremell Murphy added 13 points. Brady Ellingson had 11 points.
The Redbirds improve to 2-0 against the Bulldogs for the season. Illinois State defeated Drake 69-55 on Jan. 30. Illinois State plays Missouri State at home on Wednesday. Drake plays Indiana State at home on Wednesday.A year after Sister Jean put the Loyola Ramblers in the national spotlight, the top seed in the 43rd Missouri Valley Conference Tournament returns to St. Louis with aspirations of earning a second consecutive bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Nine other teams will also be vying for the automatic berth when the MVC Tournament opens Thursday night with two play-in games. The championship game is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Sunday inside the Enterprise Center.“We are not thinking about repeating. I do know where we are chasing. I think it’s going to be the most balanced, hard fought Arch Madness in many years with how balanced these teams are,” said Loyola coach Porter Moser, whose team defeated Illinois State, 65-49, in last year’s tournament championship game.
The top seven teams in the MVC were separated by three games in the standings. With an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament unlikely for the league, the only way in will be a tournament championship.
“Nobody is going into this tournament with a target on their backs. They are all thinking about winning it,” Moser said. “Every single game in the regular season was hard fought. Anybody can beat anybody.”
Last year, the Ramblers became the 18th MVC team to make it to the Final Four, advancing into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1963 along the way. They ended their season with a 32-6 record, setting the program mark for wins in a single season.
Loyola (19-12, 12-6) will open as the top seed despite finishing in a first-place tie with Drake (23-8, 12-6). The Ramblers took the No. 1 spot on a tiebreaker, sweeping the two regular-season meetings with the Bulldogs.
The top seed has won the tournament six times and the last 11 years and Loyola will look to become the first repeat champion since Northern Iowa in 2015 and 2016 when it begins play against the winner of No. 8 Indiana State (7-11, 15-15) and No. 9 Valparaiso (7-11, 14-17) at noon Friday.
The Ramblers, who won their second consecutive regular season championship, feature 6-4 senior guard Marques Townes, the Larry Bid Player of the Year. He’s averaging a team-high 15.9 points and led Loyola in assists with 107.
Teammate Cameron Krutwig, a 6-9 sophomore center, was a first-team All-MVC selection after averaging 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds.
A year after winning the Larry Bird award, guard Clayton Custer is averaging 11.4 points in his senior season. He was a third-team selection.
“If you just look at the numbers, it’s been down, but he means everything to us,” Moser said of Custer. “He’s about winning. He’s about our program. He means everything to us.”
As does Sister Jean, the 99-year-old chaplain who became an overnight sensation during last year’s NCAA Tournament.
“She wouldn’t miss the tournament for anything. She’ll be there,” Moser said. “Like I’ve said many times, she is our program’s comfort blanket. She makes everybody feel good. She is a huge part of our family, the basketball program and the university.”
While Loyola’s run to a regular-season MVC championship didn’t come as a surprise, the fact that the Ramblers are sharing the title with the Drake Bulldogs does.
Picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll, Drake became the third team picked second-to-last before winning at least a share of the title. Creighton (1998) and Drake (2008) also accomplished the feat.
“It’s the time of the year where you are locked in with who you are and you know all the opponents pretty well,” said Darian DeVries, who became the 20th first-year coach and third since 1980 to win the MVC regular-season title.
Drake opens the tournament against the winner of No. 7 Illinois State (9-9, 16-15) and No. 10 Evansville (5-13, 11-20).
The Bulldogs are led by All-MVC first-team selection Nick McGlynn, a 6-8 senior forward who is averaging 15.6 points and shooting 54.3 percent from the field.
Second-team selection and All-Newcomer selection Brady Ellingson, a 6-4 senior transfer from Iowa, is averaging 12.1 points.
Both players, along with freshman D.J. Wilkins, who is averaging 11.1 points, and Nick Norton, who is averaging 14 points, will also be needed in St. Louis for Drake to win its first tournament title since 2008.
“It comes down to playing hard and competing,” DeVries said. “You hope what you do is good enough on any particular night.”