Chris Kendrix scored 21 points and Ryan Kreklow hit the go-ahead 3-pointer Thursday with 1:31 remaining as No. 7 seed Missouri State survived its MVC Tournament first round matchup against No. 10 seed Drake, 69-67.
Missouri State (13-18, 8-10 MVC) led 62-53 with 7:20 left in the second half. A 13-2 run over the next five minutes by Drake (7-24, 2-16) culminated in a Reed Timmer and-one that gave the Bulldogs a 66-64 edge in the final two minutes, their first lead since the 16:21 mark.
Kreklow, a freshman guard playing his Arch Madness debut, responded with a huge trey after Timmer failed to turn his layup into a three-point play, and Missouri State went back ahead.
Drake had four chances to take a lead or force a tie in the final 1:07. The Bulldogs turned the ball over twice trailing 67-66, and then guard Graham Woodward split a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to bring the underdog within 69-67.
Kendrix had a chance to put the game away with four seconds left and a 69-67 lead but misfired on both of his free throws. Timmer’s last-second three rimmed out.
“So after that, the two free throws in my head, I’m just like, I had these,” Kendrix said, “but it’s like sometimes it’s just — it just doesn’t go your way. So after that, I really just tried to play defense, don’t let them get that shot really.”
Missouri State, one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the Valley at 33.7 percent, shot the lights out with 10-of-20 shooting beyond the arc. Kendrix made five treys to reach his game-high 21 points, and Kreklow hit three triples en route to 13 points.
Junior guard Dequon Miller shot 2-of-6 from deep and stuffed the box score with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
While Drake remains winless in the MVC Tournament in three seasons under coach Ray Giacoletti, Thursday’s loss can provide some hope for Bulldogs fans. Freshman center Dominik Olejniczak continued his dominant stretch with a team-high 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting and game-high eight rebounds, finishing the season averaging 11.6 points over the final eight games.
Freshman forward Casey Schlatter had his best performance of the season with seven points, seven rebounds and 11 assists.
Between the young front court duo and skilled guards Timmer and Woodward, Drake has a solid core to build on going into next season.
Meanwhile, Missouri State’s season continues for at least one more day. The Bears will face No. 2 seed Evansville in Friday’s quarterfinal round.