DES MOINES, IOWA — Former walk-ons Adam Emmenecker and Jonathan Cox combined for 34 points, while helping Drake overcome a 12-point second-half deficit en route to a 79-73 victory past Illinois State Saturday night.
Emmenecker, a senior guard, scored a career-high 19 points, including 14 in the second half, while collecting six rebounds, six assists and two steals. Cox, a junior forward, enjoyed his seventh double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds while tying a career high with four steals.
A third straight Drake Knapp Center sellout crowd of 7,152 saw the first matchup in the 101-year history of the Missouri Valley Conference involving a pair of teams with 6-0 league marks.
The Bulldogs extended their school record winning streak to 15 games which is the third longest active winning streak in the NCAA behind Kansas and Memphis which have won 18 and 17 games, respectively.
“I don't have a whole lot of this words to say on how proud I am of this team," said Drake coach Keno Davis. "To be down in all three of these games, particularly in the last 14 minutes of this, says a lot about this team. "
Drake, playing its third straight game without injured sophomore guard Josh Young, the leading scorer in the MVC (16.3 avg.), improved to 16-1 overall, including a 7-0 league mark.
“To get through this stretch of games without Josh, just shows a lot of heart and determination," added Davis.
Illinois State, which had a nine-game winning streak snapped, fell to 14-4 including a 6-1 mark.
“It's no surprise (that Drake rallied). We saw it on film that they're that good," said first-year Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich. "If there was a surprise, it's that we defended them that well in the first half. “We couldn't stop their penetration. In the huddle, I'm sure someone just told them to put their head down and run as hard to the basket as they can. That's hard to stop."
Senior guard Leonard Houston added 18 points, including 13 in the second half for Drake. Senior forward Klayton Korver also netted 15 points, including 12 in the second half, while grabbing seven rebounds.
Drake's pressure defense forced Illinois State into 17 turnovers with the Bulldogs scoring 26 points off those miscues.
Senior forward Anthony Slack and sophomore guard Osiris Eldridge led the Redbirds with 21 points apiece. The duo combined for 21 points staking Illinois State to a 30-28 halftime lead. The Redbirds used a 13-2 run to expand the lead to 45-33 with 13:48 left.
Houston hit a three-point basket and had a three-point play to jump start Drake's comeback pulling the Bulldogs to within 45-39. Houston made a running jumper in the paint to pull Drake within 55-53.
A layup by Korver allowed Drake to tie the game at 55-55 with 8:42 remaining. A three-point basket from the left wing by junior guard Jacob Baryenbruch gave Drake a 67-64 lead with 3:47 left that it wouldn't relinquish.
After Emmenecker sank two free throws to extend the lead, Eldridge answered with a three-point basket. Then Korver missed a three-point basket, but Emmenecker came up with a steal and was fouled, sinking a free throw to 70-67 with 2:20.
“I've been very impressed all season on how we find ways to win games," Davis added. "We did that in the last three games. In the beginning of the season, I said we might have eight or nine guys who were capable of leading us in scoring. And I think that might be what's happened."
The Redbirds made just two of their last seven shots to close out the game, while committing one turnover and missing two free throws.
Meanwhile, Drake sank 10 free throws, including four by Korver in the final 32 seconds, to maintain its lead.
Illinois State became just the second Drake opponent to shoot 50 percent or better from the floor, hitting 54.9 percent including 60 percent in the second half.
Drake shot 51.7 percent from the floor in the second half, finishing the game at 46.6 percent.
The 15-game winning streak is the second longest by an MVC school since the 1986-87 season, trailing the string of 16 straight wins by Southern Illinois in 2003-04.
This marked the first time since the 1969-70 season that Drake has opened the MVC campaign with a 7-0 record. The 1969-70 team enjoyed a 9-0 league start en route to winning the MVC title with a 14-2 mark.
This also marked Drake's 13th straight home victory - the longest winning streak in the 15-year history of the Knapp Center. It also is the third longest in school history trailing winning streaks of 18 from 1962-64 and 23 from 1969-71.
DOG TAGS: The 16 wins by coach Keno Davis are the third most by any first-year coach at Drake trailing only 18 wins that Forrdy Anderson earned in the 1946-47 season and 19 victories by Bob Ortegel in the 1974-75 campaign.
This marked the 17th sellout crowd in the 15-year history of the Drake Knapp. It was the third consecutive sellout crowd this season, marking the first time that feat has occurred.
Drake did have three sellout crowds in the first season the Drake Knapp Center opened in 1992-93 but they were not in consecutive games. Drake's 10th straight home win this season is the second longest single-season home winning streak only trailing the mark of 13 in a two by the 1969-70 team.