By Peyton Wesner
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Timmer Time versus Miller Time. Dominik versus Obi. Drake versus Missouri State.
Following a very competitive matchup between the 8th seeded Loyola (IL) Ramblers and the 9th seeded Bradley Braves, the Missouri State Bears (7 seed) and the Drake Bulldogs (10 seed) took to the floor of the Scottrade Center for an opportunity to be the first challenger of D.J. Balentine and the Evansville Purple Aces on Friday evening.
Relying on whether a Reed Timmer game-winning three-point attempt fell through the cylinder, the nightcap of session 1 did not disappoint.
But who won? You will have to do as the 6,929 fans in attendance, and revel in the drama.
A 1-on-5 battle upon commencement, the Bears’ Chris Kendrix initially bested the five Bulldogs, for he posted the first 13 Missouri State points in six minutes (13-8 MSU).
From the 14 minute mark, the Bears persisted to match every Drake basket until Bulldogs’ “fab freshman” Dominik Olejniczak asserted himself in the paint with four consecutive to draw his squad within 1 (20-19 MSU).
However, Paul Lusk’s group immediately answered in the form of a Ryan Kreklow triple prior to Obediah Church electrifying the crowd with one of his three highlight dunks on the night (27-21 MSU).
Although Drake star and All-MVC honorable mention Reed Timmer finally broke of his leash thanks to back-to-back twine ticklers (one a deuce, the other a trey), 2015-16 Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year Dequon Miller seized control of the contest with two defensive rebounds, in which he turned into fast breaks and resulted in five points (two of which came from him personally). 34-26 Missouri State!
Miller continued to lead his pack heading into the locker room as he pushed the pace, made a layup, and nailed the following free throw, ultimately supplying a ten-point advantage (40-30 MSU). Considering how the first twenty minutes ended, one would have assumed Missouri State would continue to have their way by utilizing full momentum.
You know what they say about assume.
Surprising everyone in attendance, Graham Woodward spurred a 13-2 domination, which was capped off with a Ore Arogundade edge-stealing layup, to experience their first lead since 16:12 in the first (43-42 DRA). We had ourselves a ballgame!
Similar to the first half when the Bulldogs ran within one, Kreklow did not allow the opposition’s lead to hold for too long as he jumped the Bears back in front with a deuce. Furthermore, three-pointers by Miller continued to widen the gap as Missouri State was up six with nine minutes remaining (59-53 MSU).
After six more of Miller’s 14, the point guard offered a lob to Church, in turn, he jammed through for an eight point advantage (61-53 MSU)
But, Drake would not go away. Utilizing a 8-0 jog, four of which came from Graham Woodward, the Bulldogs pawed their way to a one-point deficit with just 4:15 in regulation (62-61 MSU).
Moreover, Timmer pushed them in front with a layup at the 1:48 mark (66-64 DRA). Though, Ryan Kreklow nailed a triple with 91 seconds remaining. 67-66 Missouri State!
Yet, Drake all of a sudden could not keep hold of the ball! Turnovers, one by Olejniczak and another by Timmer, prevented the Bulldogs from even getting shots at the rim. Therefore, they were forced to foul and send Loomis Gerring to the charity stripe.
Swish! Swish! It was a three-point game! The Bulldogs would have one final opportunity to force overtime.
Or not. Knowing a three pointer was the way to defeat, Bears’ head coach Paul Lusk decided to foul instead of permit the chance to be tied. Thus, Woodward went to the free throw line with only the chance to bring the team within one.
He could not! Missing the second attempt, Woodward left the door open for the Bears’ Kendrix to ice the game with four seconds.
However, Kendrix, an 81% shooter, missed, not one, but both.
Not allowing Missouri State to set-up its defense, Drake’s Timmer grabbed the rebound, pushed it up the floor, and fired a game-winning attempt. It looked on line as it soared through the air. Boink! It hit the back rim, glanced off the side, and fell harmlessly to the floor.
The Bears had survived.
At the beginning of the season, freshman Ryan Kreklow didn’t see playing time for the first five contests. Now, the Missouri State Bears cannot live without him.
Kreklow, a sharpshooter from downtown, made his collegiate debut in grand fashion with ten points against Utah State. In fact, the 6’4″ Missouri native made at least two triples in half of the conference matchups (9)!
Make one over half.
Kreklow, making three of his six tries, churned out 13 points, one off his career-high. More specifically, he kept Drake from adding onto momentum with baskets as he always had an answer for the next “problem.”
Fresh off great recognition for his talent, Motlow State product and this year’s MVC Newcomer of the Year Dequon Miller was fantastic.
The 5’10” guard, taking the scoring baton from Chris Kendrix, ended with 14 points. Also, he had 4 assists and 7 rebounds. Yes, the smallest man on the floor used his quickness to have 7 boards in a “normal for him” stat-sheet stuffer performance!
Miller and the 13-18 (9-10) Missouri State Bears will test their luck with the Evansville Purple Aces Friday evening.
A Force To Be Reckoned With
Coming off by far his best game against Loyola (IL) on Saturday (19 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 blocks), “fab freshman” Dominik Olejniczak continued to show how bright his future is.
Dominating Bears’ senior Camyn Boone in the paint, the seven footer used his big body to pin his defender off high/low action. Additionally, he displayed a very developed post game with his back to the basket. Olejniczak finished with team-highs in points (18) and rebounds (8).
“We had a freshman center who come in the game tonight and was shooting 76 percent” said head coach Ray Giacoletti on Dominik Olejniczak. “He would be leading the country in field goal percentage if he had more attempts. It took us a long time to understand how important he was and how it was going to make the game easier for everybody else.”
The Drake Bulldogs finish the season 7-24 (2-17).
He Said It (Part I)
“Happy for our guys. Having another guy go down in that fashion, that hurt, but we weren’t going to make any excuses. Just really happy for our guys because they fought, and they really wanted it, and they cared.”
—Missouri State Bears’ head coach Paul Lusk on his first pump and emotion on the court after the game.
He Said It (Part II)
“This team’s played so much better the last half of the season. It hasn’t equated to wins, but the last four weeks, we’ve gotten better, had opportunities to win games.”
—Drake Bulldogs’ head coach Ray Giacoletti
He Said It (Part III)
“Evansville is no joke. We’ve just get going, get everybody’s minds right and get ready to roll tomorrow.”
—Missouri State’s Dequon Miller on the next opponent of Evansville.