2008 MVC Tournament Recap: Drake 79, Illinois State 49
Normally subdued, Keno pumped his fist in the air right around the time Drake took only its second lead of the afternoon. Little did he know the game would open up almost immediately.
Playing with trademarked balance, DU knocked the Redbirds from the windowsill early. The hungry Bulldogs closed the first half with a protracted 22-2 run. With his teammates up 40-19, DU guard Leonard Houston walked off the court grinning ear-to-ear. He was not alone.
Only half of the game was done, but everything was completely over.
Eight DU players scored in the opening stanza thanks to eight team assists. These guys share like few peers.
“It has been quite a journey to have five guys play on the first team come from the scout team,” said Emmenecker. “I think it really helped us build our unselfish play.” The only current starter that never toiled in the bowels of the program is sophomore Josh Young.
To set up Bucky for an open 3 from the corner, Emmenecker split two guards at the top of the key and collapsed two forwards in the lane. When the point guard occupies four men, somebody is wide open. With Drake, an open somebody counts as three points against you.
“They’re the best shooting team I’ve seen in 20 years,” observed Illinois State Head Coach Tim Jankovich.
The ISU boys, slow-starting hard-charging in the quarters and semis, started fast and finished…well, if they made it to the finish line there were no fans left to see them cross it.
At that point all eyes were on the Drake Bulldogs, tournament champions for the first time ever.
Drake’s 79-49 win was good enough for the largest margin of victory in a Valley title game. The balance was once again precious. Four different players made a pair of triples. Five different players hauled in four or more rebounds. Six different players tallied two or more assists.
In defeat, “Little O” twice got an opening on the baseline and things got downright filthy. He shoved one in from the front and also completed a reverse minutes later. Though neither revived a pummeled ISU unit, the two jams cemented Eldridge’s claim to the most athletic player in the league.
While cutting down the nets the DU players cut such small pieces. Even in the most successful moment of their basketball lives the Drake Bulldogs were unfailingly unselfish.
Look for the “Little Blue Engine That Could” to take out one, maybe two teams in the Big Dance.
“I think earlier today we proved to ourselves that even when we’re playing good teams, as long as we’re playing good basketball and playing together that there’s nobody in the country that we can’t beat,” said MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Adam Emmenecker.
The former walk-on Emmenecker earned both the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year (regular season MVP) and the MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player (tourney).
Aside from demonstrating a fascinating trajectory, the senior co-captain convinced Coach Keno Davis “to agree to that if we won the conference tournament he would wear a blue leather suit, of his own, on Selection Sunday.”
The success-starved Bulldogs might not take a big bite out of their region, but along the way the hard working, dream-realizing Drake men will gain more fans than they lose.
2008 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball All-Tournament Team
Adam Emmenecker (Drake) – Most Outstanding Player
Jonathan Cox (Drake)
Josh Young (Drake)
Osiris Eldridge (Illinois State)
Eric Coleman (Northern Iowa)