TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP)—Adam Emmenecker saw an opportunity to step out of his established role as a playmaker, and he took it.
Emmenecker scored a career-high 20 points, and No. 16 Drake defeated Indiana State 83-77 for its 20th win.
Emmenecker leads the Missouri Valley Conference in assists, but averages just seven points per game. He shot just 5-of-13, but made 10 of 11 free throws. He didn’t completely change his style—he still had eight assists—but he was much more focused on attacking the basket than usual.
“It’s whatever the game dictates,” Emmenecker said. “They were switching big guys onto me, so that kind of opened up the lane a little bit for me to try to get to the basket.”
In this case, Emmenecker’s teammates made him better. Drake made 10 of 22 3-pointers, and the threat they posed opened up opportunities for him.
“We have so many great shooters on the perimeter that when other teams try to take them away, it opens up the middle of the lane a little bit,” he said. “I try to keep my teammates involved, but I know I have to take the shots when they’re there.”
Indiana State coach Kevin McKenna knew why Drake won.
“The consistent guy, the guy that makes them all go is number 15 (Emmenecker),” he said. “He makes a lot of those guys better than they probably are. That’s the mark of a good player, and the sign of a good team.”
Josh Young scored 18 points and Leonard Houston added 16 for the Bulldogs (20-1, 11-0 Missouri Valley), who won their 19th straight.
Emmenecker was happy the Bulldogs claimed their 20th win.
“It’s nice to get to that total, but we know we’ve got a long way to go, still,” he said. “There’s a lot of season left, and we know we’re going to have a lot of tough teams. Every team in our conference is so good that we can’t not be focused every night.”
Gabe Moore (10-11, 5-6) led Indiana State with 19 points. It was the Sycamores’ first loss in 10 home games this season, but their third straight loss overall.
Drake made seven of 11 3-pointers in the second half and shot 56 percent from the field after halftime.
Indiana State beat traditional conference powers Southern Illinois and Creighton on its home court earlier this season, and the Sycamores looked like they might add Drake to the list. Indiana State shot 65 percent from the field in the first half to take a 35-30 lead.
“I think you have to give Indiana State credit,” Drake coach Keno Davis said. “They were very well prepared and very well-coached. They gave us everything we wanted and more in that first half.”
Houston hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie it at 40 early in the second half. The Bulldogs took their first lead of the second half, 45-44, on a three-point play by Emmenecker.
Young made a 3-pointer, then Emmenecker stole the ball from Indiana State’s Todd McCoy, was fouled and made both free throws to give the Bulldogs a 53-48 lead.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Jonathan Cox and Bill Eaddy gave Drake a 59-50 lead with just under nine minutes to go, and the Bulldogs stayed in control the rest of the way.
The Sycamores made 11 of their first 13 shots to take a 26-16 lead 12 minutes into the game.
Drake trimmed its deficit to 31-27, but Indiana State pushed the lead to 35-27 on a dunk from Isiah Martin and a spinning mid-range jumper from Marico Stinson.
Cox converted an old-fashioned three-point play with six seconds left in the half, but Indiana State still led by five at the break.
Emmenecker wasn’t surprised the Sycamores started so well.
“They’re a really good team, and especially playing at home,” he said. “They’ve blown a lot of good teams out. We felt being down five at halftime, we were in a pretty good position if we just stayed consistent with our offense, stayed consistent with our defense, we’d have a chance to win in the end.”
Klayton Korver, who had averaged 14.5 points in Drake’s previous six games, went scoreless for the first time this season. He committed four fouls and played just 14 minutes.
Emmenecker played all 40 minutes.
“Tonight, we were struggling so much to get flow offensively and even to stay matched up defensively that, the way the game was working out, we had to have our seniors on the floor, and we had to be playing a lot of minutes,” he said.
McKenna was impressed with the way Drake came back.
“They don’t panic,” he said. “They have a pace about themselves.”