OMAHA, Neb. (AP)—Drake’s Josh Young kicked off his walking boot for a couple of hours Tuesday night and gave Creighton a kick in the gut.
Young hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer in overtime and No. 22 Drake celebrated its first national ranking in 33 years with a 68-60 victory over its Missouri Valley Conference nemesis.
Young, the Valley’s leading scorer, said he would put the walking boot back on Wednesday morning to protect the sprained right ankle that kept him out the last three games. And he’ll do it satisfied that he made the right decision to play on a night when the surging Bulldogs won for the first time in seven games in Omaha and extended their school-record winning streak to 16 games.
“We struggled the early part of overtime, so I knew someone was going to have to hit a shot, and I wanted to be that person,” Young said. “They got me open on a reversal, and I stepped up and made it.”
First-year Drake coach Keno Davis said the decision to play Young came at tipoff. Young played 25 minutes.
“It was an inspired return,” Davis said. “He was fighting to get on the court the other three games. He just wanted in. He realized he wasn’t physically able to go. We were hopeful that we could get a few minutes from him. And he came up big for us.”
The game was billed as the showdown between Drake’s Klayton Korver and Creighton’s Kaleb Korver. They’re the younger brothers of Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz, who played at Creighton.
Klayton led Drake with 14 points, while Kaleb, a reserve, scored seven for the Bluejays. Kyle was in the stands to see it all.
But everything turned on Young, who hadn’t been much of a factor until overtime.
“I had helped in some areas, but I hadn’t really produced as well as I wanted to,” said Young, who scored eight points, half his average. “After hitting that shot, it felt great.”
Kaleb Korver’s 3-pointer with 50 seconds left pulled the Bluejays within 61-59, but the Bulldogs put the game away at the free throw line.
Drake (17-1, 8-0), which hadn’t been ranked since the final poll of the 1974-75 season, matched its 2006-07 win total.
“This is the best win by far,” Davis said. “This place arguably is the toughest place to play in our conference, and you have to put it right up there in the country. It’s a great venue for college basketball, and their fans are spirited, and they always have good teams here.”
The Bluejays (14-4, 5-3) lost for the first time in six games.
Adam Emmenecker had 12 points for the Bulldogs.
Cavel Witter’s pull-up jumper in the lane tied it 36-all, and then there were 10 lead changes over the final 12:42 of regulation.
The Bluejays had chances to extend a late lead, but Kaleb Korver and Chad Millard missed free throws. That put the Bulldogs in position to tie, and they did when Leonard Houston put back Emmenecker’s miss with 23 seconds left.
Millard missed a 3 just before the regulation buzzer.
“We didn’t get the key stops we needed, and they hit some big shots and got their energy going,” said Watts, who scored 13 points, including the 1,000th of his career. “We weren’t tough enough to make the plays to finish the game.”
Witter had 12 points for the Bluejays.
Neither team did much during a sloppy start to the overtime. Not until Young picked up his dribble and swished that 3. Houston’s fastbreak layup put the Bulldogs up 59-54.
“It speaks to the toughness of our team,” Young said. “This team comes in with a lot of guts. It showed when we got down in the first half and down again in the second. Then we battled back in overtime.”
The Bulldogs were picked to finish ninth in the Valley after losing four starters from last season. They are just two seasons removed from a 20-year stretch where they never finished above .500.
Drake’s only loss came at Saint Mary’s (Calif.) on Nov. 10. The Bulldogs own the nation’s third-longest winning streak behind No. 1 Memphis and No. 2 Kansas.
“We’ve definitely improved our program at Drake so we can be competitive against everybody in the conference,” Davis said. “That doesn’t mean we’re better than every team, but it means we can win on any given night.”