Drake prevails in rematch with No. 17 Creighton

Dan Wright, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Fifteen days ago, Drake was left searching for answers on the trip home from Omaha. The Bulldogs fell behind by 24 points at halftime against Creighton en route to a 91-61 loss.
The Bulldogs decided then that the best thing for them was to learn what they could from the loss and move on because a rematch with the 17th-ranked Bluejays loomed shortly thereafter.
"We came out knowing that if you held onto (the loss) too long, Creighton was going to come in and be explosive again," Drake senior Ben Simons said. "We came back on Monday, got some work in and became a better team"
Drake flipped the script against Creighton on Wednesday night at the Knapp Center, building a 16-point, first-half lead before holding on late for a 74-69 upset.
The Bluejays (17-3, 6-2 Missouri Valley Conference) had two chances in the final minute to tie the score or take the lead, but they missed a shot from close range, then allowed Simons to steal a pass near midcourt with two seconds left in a three-point game.
Reserve Richard Carter led Drake with 20 points. Simons had 13, Daddy Ugbede had 12, and Jeremy Jeffers finished with 11.
Iowa native Doug McDermott topped Creighton with 21 points and added six rebounds. Teammate Grant Gibbs contributed 16 points and eight assists.
It was an unexpected upset by up-and-down Bulldogs (9-10, 3-5).
"We've had a couple of rough spots so far this season," Drake coach Mark Phelps said. "They showed great resilience, toughness and togetherness to bounce back and win a big game for us here at home."
The Bluejays were trying to get back in the win column following Saturday's 67-64 loss at No. 20 Wichita State. Instead, they sustained back-to-back losses for the first time since February.
Drake proved that it was up for the challenge this time, overcoming eight quick points by McDermott to tie it 14-14 with 12 minutes remaining in the half.
Carter then heated up, drilling 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor to give Drake its first sustainable lead of night, 25-20.
Carter, scored 14 first-half points on 5-of-6 shooting, knocked down both of his 3-pointers from the left wing. The second shot seemed to ignite the home crowd, and the Bulldogs kept rolling the rest of the half.
Following Carter's 3s, Chris Hines and Jeffers both hit 3-pointers to key Drake's 14-2 run that closed the half. The Bulldogs held a surprising 44-28 lead at the break.
With a sellout crowd in attendance in part to see McDermott, the Naismith Award candidate who won two high school state basketball titles just 38 miles north of Des Moines in Ames, Iowa, the junior poured in 17 first-half points to keep Creighton in it.
McDermott, though, fell ill in the second half with what his father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, said was flu-like symptoms. The younger McDermott continued to play.
"He told me early in the second half, he said, 'I feel like I'm going to throw up,'" Greg McDermott said. "We tried to get as much out of him as we could in the second half."
It wasn't quite enough though.
Creighton stormed back in the second half, and guard Austin Chatman's 3-pointer sliced the deficit to 61-60 with just under eight minutes left to play.
Doug McDermott's bucket on the next possession gave Creighton its first lead of the half.
"We were the aggressor in the second half," Greg McDermott said. "They were the aggressor in the first half. If you're going to dig yourself out of a 16-point hole, you'd better be the aggressor. Fortunately we were it gave us a chance."
Drake led by five with 32 seconds left when Gibbs was fouled and converted a three-point play to pull the Bluejays within two. Jahenns Manigat then stole the inbounds pass from Simons and called timeout, giving the Bluejays a chance to tie it or take the lead.
Gibbs tried to get the ball to McDermott underneath but was forced to drive the lane and missed from close range. Carter was fouled on the rebound, and he made one of two free throws.
Simons then stole the ball on Creighton's side of the court and sank two free throws to seal the win seconds before many of Drake's fans stormed the court.
"The play before, I had turned it over in the full court," said Simons, who scored 13 points. "So my teammates said, you know what, you're going to come back and make a big play. It happened that way."
Phelps said the crowd of 6,162 played a major part in the upset.
"This is what Missouri Valley games are supposed to be like," Phelps said. "Very hard-fought play by teams that have good players on both teams."
NOTES: Drake's bench outscored Creighton's bench 43-14. The Bulldogs' bench also outscored the Drake starters 43-31. ... Creighton went 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half and finished 5-for-21 overall (23.8 percent). McDermott was 0-for-6 from deep but 8-for-12 on shots inside the arc. ... Creighton failed in its attempt to start 18-2 for the second straight year. ... Jeffers made all three of his 3-point attempts and missed all three of his 2-point attempts. ... Drake outrebounded Creighton 39-31.

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