VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — ShanQuan Hemphill knew it was only a matter of time before undefeated Drake went on a run to keep its perfect season alive on Saturday afternoon.
The senior forward, playing less than 20 miles from his hometown of Gary, scored 18 points, including a dunk that jump started a late 11-0 run to lead the No. 25 Bulldogs to an 80-77 win over Valparaiso.
Hemphill was one of five Drake players in double figures as the Bulldogs improved to 18-0 this season and are one of three remaining unbeaten teams in the country.
“I knew that we were going to go on a run,” Hemphill said. “Everybody knew that we were going to go on a run. It was only a matter of time.”
Drake trailed 69-65 with under five minutes remaining when Hemphill’s dunk cut the deficit to two points. Tremell Murphy, D.J. Wilkins and Roman Penn all added 3-pointers over the next three minutes to give the Bulldogs a 76-69 lead with one minute remaining.
What made the run sweeter for the Bulldogs is that all four players who scored grew up within a half hour from Valparaiso’s campus in an area of Northwest Indiana known as “The Region.”
“We don’t want to lose and we don’t want to have a bad rep for The Region,” Wilkins said. “What we have going on right now, it’s big for our area that we’re from. All the little kids that look up to us, it means a lot to all of us.”
Sheldon Edwards scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the first half as the Valparaiso freshman helped lead his team to a 43-35 halftime lead. The Crusaders led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but were held scoreless for more than four minutes during Drake’s late scoring run. Valparaiso fell to 6-12 this season and has now lost three straight games.
“I hurt for our guys because it’s not every day you get a ranked team coming in,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said. “We’re right there and I want us to now get over this hump. We just couldn’t do it today.”
Drake: The Bulldogs won their second straight game since entering the Associated Press Top 25 Poll earlier in the week. Drake’s ranking marks its first Top 25 ranking since March 17, 2008 when the Bulldogs were No. 14 in the country. Drake is the first Missouri Valley Conference team to earn a regular-season ranking since 2017.
Valparaiso: The Crusaders lost their third straight game to a ranked opponent and are now 1-43 against ranked opponents dating back to the end of the 1997-98 season. Valparaiso’s last win against a ranked opponent came in a 65-62 win over No. 21 Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 2016 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Drake: Hemphill had 18 points and 11 rebounds while Murphy added 11 points and 11 rebounds. It marked the first time since March 22, 2019 that Drake had two players with a double double in the same game. … Drake dominated Valparaiso on the glass with a 47-27 rebounding advantage. … Hemphill missed his first six shots of the game on Saturday, but then had six straight makes.
Valparaiso: The Crusaders shot 41.4 percent (12-29) from the 3-point line after coming into the game as the only Missouri Valley Conference team shooting worse than 30 percent for the season. … Valparaiso’s freshmen (Connor Barrett, Sheldon Edwards, Jacob Ognacevic) accounted for 34 of the team’s 77 points.
Drake: Will look for another sweep in the Missouri Valley Conference during the series finale against Valparaiso on Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs have swept their first four Valley opponents of the season.
Valparaiso: Will close out the two-game series against Drake on Sunday afternoon before hosting Bradley on Wednesday in a rematch of the 2019-20 Missouri Valley Conference tournament title game. The Crusaders beat Bradley 91-85 in double overtime last month.
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