Tucker DeVries scores 29 points as the Drake Bulldogs defeat the UNI Panthers in the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa.
Red Sox vs. Yankees, Lakers vs. Celtics and Duke vs. North Carolina are all storied rivalries that provide immense entertainment for fans whenever they occur. For fans of Missouri Valley Conference basketball, Drake versus the University of Northern Iowa is a rivalry that also brings excitement, and tonight’s game lived up to the expectations.
The Drake Bulldogs defended their home court relentlessly and came away with a 77-63 victory over their in-state rival. The Bulldogs were backed by an enthused sellout crowd that smothered the withering cheers from the UNI contingent in the Knapp Center.
As is typical, Tucker DeVries fed off the crowd’s energy to score 29 points and propel Drake to victory. DeVries rained in five 3-pointers, hauled in seven rebounds and dished out six assists in the winning effort.
Aiding DeVries was guard Conor Enright, who scored 14 points. Enright, who averages 6.9 points per game, added much-needed scoring for Drake, including four 3-pointers. Enright’s pesky play also netted him four steals on the night. Two of Enright’s 3-point buckets came on back-to-back possessions and shortened a fast-growing UNI lead. Enright’s 3-pointers brought Drake from 38 points to 44 and generated an overall 46-44 score, with UNI holding the advantage. Enright’s play fired up the sellout crowd and brought the momentum heavily to Drake’s side.
Big man Darnell Brodie was the third and final Bulldog to eclipse double figures. Brodie, cheered on by five men in the Knapp Center student section who each wore one of the letters in his last name on their bare chest, cashed in 11 points, snagged eight rebounds and dished out four assists. One of Brodie’s assists was a highlight-worthy behind-the-back pass to DeVries, who corralled the ball and cashed in a 3-pointer. Brodie also had a two-handed slam dunk that put a smile on the faces of those in his impromptu court-side fan club.
UNI was without Bowen Born, their starting guard who averages 14.4 points per game. In his absence, Trey Campbell stepped up for the Panthers. Campbell led UNI with 18 points, a leap from his 8.6 points per game average. Campbell carried a heavy load, chucking up 19 shots.
Another unlikely contributor arose for UNI in the form of Landon Wolf. Wolf, who averages 3.1 points per game, was the only Panther besides Campbell to reach double-digit scoring. Wolf connected on three three-pointers and totaled 11 points on the night.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair between Drake and UNI, with the Panthers carrying a slim 38-36 lead heading into the locker rooms. DeVries was the only Bulldog to finish the half in double figures. DeVries and Campbell battled against each other, both carrying the scoring load for their respective teams.
Upon returning to the court, the Panthers were greeted with a surprise from the Drake crowd. The student section grabbed a hold of a plethora of skinny, long balloons. Perfectly placed behind the UNI basket, the Drake student section incessantly waved their balloons, seeking to distract the Panthers and provide an advantage for the hometown Bulldogs.
At first, the student sections’ tactics were to no avail. After nearly three minutes of play in the second half, UNI had scored eight points – and Drake had scored none. The Panthers quickly built a 10-point lead, threatening to upset Drake at home. A timeout occurred, and Drake collected their breath, calmed down and returned to play with their foot pressed hard on the gas pedal. The timeout sparked an 8-0 Bulldog run, in which Enright drained the aforementioned back-to-back threes, bringing the score to 46-44 UNI.
Drake couldn’t gain the lead over UNI until seven and a half minutes left in the game. Drake’s Atin Wright swished a free throw that gave Drake a 57-56 advantage and their first second-half lead.
Drake and UNI traded blows – and the lead – for two and a half minutes. Then, with just under five minutes remaining, DeVries passed to Kyron Gibson, who splashed in a three-pointer that put Drake ahead 63-61. Gibson’s three-pointer was the beginning of a 17-2 Bulldog run that extended until the clock hit zero. The dagger came with a DeVries three-pointer that gave Drake a 73-63 lead, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Drake improved to 17-4 overall and 8-2 in the conference with the win against their rival. UNI fell to 12-9 and 6-4 in the MVC. The two teams will meet again in Cedar Falls, Iowa at UNI on February 24.