Keno Davis, left, and his coaching staff at the Drake-Indiana State game.
Top-seeded Drake, coming off an impressive, 68-46 quarterfinal round victory past Indiana State, is making its first appearance in the semifinal round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament since 1993.
The Bulldogs, holding the No. 1 seed for the first time ever in MVC Tournament history, are 1-3 against Creighton in the MVC Tournament and 0-4 in the semifinal round, which will start at 1:30 p.m. CST Saturday, March 8, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Creighton, which toppled Bradley, 74-70, in Friday’s quarterfinal round, is the defending State Farm MVC Tournament champion having beaten Southern Illinois, 67-61, in the finals last year.
The top seed has won only 10 championships in the league’s 31-year tournament history, with only three titles by a No. 1 seed in the 17 previous years in St. Louis. The last No. 1 seed to win the MVC Tournament was Illinois State in 1998.
SCHOOL MARK TIED: Drake tied a school-single season mark for victories (26) with its 68-46 romp past Indiana State while also ending a nine-game losing streak in the quarterfinal round of the MVC Tournament.
Senior guard Leonard Houston scored all 16 of his team high points in the second half as the Bulldogs broke away from a 31-25 halftime lead. The Bulldogs scored the first seven points of the second half on their way to a lead that swelled to as many as 25 points.
Drake had five players finish in double-figure scoring for the second time in three games and the fifth time on the season.
Led by three treys from Klayton Korver and Josh Young, the Bulldogs made nine three-point baskets. The duo each finished with 11 points. Junior forward Jonathan Cox had 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
TRULY UNIQUE: Senior point guard Adam Emmenecker, recently named winner of the Larry Bird Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award, has been the story on one of the great Cinderella stories in all of college basketball.
Emmenecker arrived at Drake as a walk-on and didn’t earn a scholarship until the day before school started last fall. He already has been named the 2008 Academic All-American of the Year for the University Division in college basketball.
On Friday against Indiana State, Emmenecker became the first player in the MVC this season to record two different kinds of double-doubles. In a 71-68 victory at Evansville Jan. 6 Emmenecker had 10 points and 10 assists. Then on Friday he grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds against Indiana State to go along with 13 points.
SUCCESS STARTS WITH SENIORS: With graduation claiming four senior starters from last year’s 17-15 team, it was easy for prognosticators to pick Drake to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll.
But the media forgot to look at the veteran leadership returning that has made Drake’s 25-4 start draw national attention as THE STORY in college basketball this season.
Seniors Adam Emmenecker, Leonard Houston and Klayton Korver have combined to appear in 316 Drake games during their careers. Then there’s fourth-year Drake juniors Jonathan Cox and Brent Heemskerk who have combined to appear in 191 games.
Emmenecker has set the school single-season assist record at 182 assists in his first year as a starter. Korver, who will be appearing in a school-record 120th game, is just the second player in Drake history to score more than 1,000 points and make more than 200 three-point baskets. He ranks second on the school career three-point basket list at 230 and 13th on the career scoring charts with 1,100 points.
Houston, who did not make a start in his career until this season, was named to the MVC Most Improved team on Wednesday after averaging 14.2 points compared to 4.5 points in 2006-07.
EMMENECKER NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN PLAYER OF YEAR: Drake senior guard Adam Emmenecker and senior forward Troy Ruths of Washington University (Mo.) head the 2008 ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America® Men’s Basketball Teams, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Emmenecker was named the Academic All-American® of the Year for the University Division. Emmenecker owns a 3.97 grade point average in management, business, finance and entrepreneurial management. He has led nationally ranked Drake to a 26-4 record and its first Missouri Valley Conference title since 1971.
A former walk-on Emmenecker leads the MVC with 182 assists, and leads Drake with 51 steals and an 81.4 free throw shooting percentage. Emmenecker was named the captain of the MVC Scholar-Athlete team as well as the MVC Most Improved Team. He is a two-time MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week selection (Jan. 9, Jan. 22) and also earned MVC Player of the Week honors Jan. 21.
Emmenecker was joined on the 2008 ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America® First Team by D.J. Augustin (Texas), Justin Hare (Belmont), Jack Leasure (Coastal Carolina) and Brett Winkelman (North Dakota State).
TOPS IN THE NATION: Joining Adam Emmenecker as a first-team Academic All-American on the women’s side was Drake senior guard Lindsay Whorton. Drake is the only school in the country with a first-team Academic All-American selection on both the men’s and women’s teams.
MVC POST-SEASON HONORS: Four of Drake’s starters earned All-Missouri Valley Conference playing honors headed by senior guard Adam Emmenecker, who was named the 2008 Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year. He received 87 points, including 25 of a possible 40 first-place votes. Drake sophomore guard Josh Young placed third in the voting with 55 points, including nine first-place votes. Drake junior forward Jonathan Cox was sixth in the Player of the Year voting, receiving five points.
Emmenecker is the first Drake player to earn the league’s top honor since 1993, when Curt Smith was voted the league’s Player of the Year. Only two other Drake players have earned the top honor in the MVC, which began honoring Players of the Year in 1969 (Jeff Halliburton-1971 and Lewis Lloyd-1980 and 1981).
Both Emmenecker and Young earned first-team all-MVC playing honors. Cox and senior guard Leonard Houston earned second-team all-MVC playing honors.
Emmenecker also was named captain of the MVC Most Improved Team with Cox and Houston also being selected to the five-member unit.
KENO DAVIS COACH OF YEAR: For the first time since 1993, a Drake coach has earned the Rawlings MVC Coach of the Year honor as Keno Davis became the third rookie coach in the past five years to win the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title.
Davis received 38 of a possible 40 first-place tallies and 116 total points to outdistance Illinois State’s Tim Jankovich in the voting. Creighton’s Dana Altman was third in the balloting, conducted by league coaches, media and sports information directors.
In his first year as head coach at Drake, Davis engineered the surprise regular-season champs to a 26-4 record after being picked ninth in the league’s pre-season poll. The Bulldogs are the lowest pre-season pick to win the league title (Illinois State was tabbed for eighth in the 1991-92 poll, before sharing the regular-season crown with Southern Illinois. The league has maintained records of its pre-season poll since 1985-86.)
The 26 victories as a first-year coach is tied for fifth-best in the history of the MVC, and don’t yet include the State Farm MVC Tournament or post-season play. Other recent MVC Rawlings Coach of the Year winners with 25+ wins included Southern Illinois’ Matt Painter (25 in 2004) and Chris Lowery (27 in 2005). The league record for wins by a rookie coach is 33 by Bill Hodges and his Indiana State Final Four team of 1979. (Page 155 of the MVC media guide has a complete list of rookie records.)
A SEASON TO REMEMBER: The 26 victories ties the Drake single-season school mark held by the 1968-69 team, under Maury John, which went 26-5 en route to finishing third in the 1969 NCAA FInal Four. Drake set a school record with a 21-game winning streak which also is the fourth-longest winning streak by a team in Missouri Valley Conference history, and the longest winning streak since Bradley reeled off 22 straight wins in 1985-86.
The 1968-69 team owned the previous school record winning streak at 12 games until losing in the semifinal round of the NCAA Final Four to eventual national champion UCLA, 85-82.
Drake’s 13-0 league start marked just the fifth time in the last 50 years that a school has enjoyed a 13-0 start in the MVC. Only 14 previous teams in overall MVC history have started the conference schedule with 13-0 records. Southern Illinois was the last MVC school to win its first 13 league games, en route to going 17-0 in the 2003-04 season.
Drake has more than doubled its entire MVC victory output of six wins in 2006-07, while the 15 wins are the most MVC victories ever by a Drake team.
PROLIFIC SHOOTERS: Drake has set a school single-season record for three-point baskets with 275, eclipsing the previous mark of 232 set in 2001-02, while ranking fifth on the all-time Missouri Valley Conference list for single-season three-point baskets.
The Bulldogs rank 15th in the latest NCAA Statistics in three-point field goals per game (9.2 avg.) and 16th in free throw percentage (.754). Josh Young ranks 13th in the NCAA in three-point field goal percentage (.453).
Remember Drake set a MVC Tournament record last year by making 15 three-point baskets in a 101-96 overtime first-round victory past Evansville. Both Young and Klayton Korver, who each made five three-point baskets in that game, are back.
Drake has made at least 10 three-point baskets in 12 games. Drake has made 103 treys in its last 12 games, matching a season high with 13 against UNI, followed by 12 in a home game against Creighton; 10 in road games at Indiana State, Illinois State, Southern Illinois; and 12 at Missouri State.
AMBITIOUS: Drake is looking to get back to post-season play for the first time since 1986. The Bulldogs played in the NIT that year and last reached the NCAA Tournament in 1971.
Drake’s post-season drought is the longest among any MVC member, as every other current member of the league has been in the NCAA Tournament at least once in the past 10 seasons. Drake’s NCAA Tournament drought is the eighth-longest nationally (the distinction goes to Harvard, which hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1946).
TITLE TOWN: Drake became the first Division I school to win a conference regular season title this season when it earned a 65-55 victory at Northern Iowa Feb. 16. It marked the Bulldogs’ first Missouri Valley Conference title since the 1970-71 season.
Drake has seven MVC titles in its history, including three straight from 1969-71, winning one-game playoffs for the crown in 1969 and 1971 and taking an outright title in 1970.
BANKING ON HISTORY: Fourteen straight MVC regular-season champions have reached the NCAA Tournament. Illinois State (1992-93) was the last to win the league’s regular season crown and not make it to the Big Dance.
THE COACH: Keno Davis was named Drake’s 24th head men’s basketball coach on March 21, 2007, succeeding his father, Dr. Tom Davis, who retired as head coach but remains at Drake as a special assistant to the athletic director.
Keno Davis served six years as an assistant coach under former Drake head coach Gary Garner at Southeast Missouri State, before being named the first assistant to join the men’s basketball coaching staff at Drake under Tom Davis on May 19, 2003.
He also was an assistant coach at Southern Indiana from 1995-97 under coach Bruce Pearl who is now the highly successful coach at Tennessee. Keno earned a bachelor of arts degree in communications studies from Iowa in 1995.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Besides similar coaching styles, first-year Drake coach Keno Davis is also enjoying the same type of success his father, legendary coach Dr. Tom Davis, encountered.
- Tom Davis was 21-6 in his first year as a college head coach — at Lafayette in 1971-72.
- Tom Davis won 18 straight games in his first year at Iowa in 1986-87 posting a 30-5 mark.
- Tom Davis was named the 1986-87 Associated Press National Coach of the Year. Keno Davis is attracting attention as a top candidate for National Coach of the Year this season.
GARNERING RESPECT: Drake enters the MVC Tournament ranked…
- No. 4 in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll
- No. 14 in the latest College Basketball Ratings Percentage Index
- No. 21 in the latest Sagarin NCAA basketball ratings
- No. 20 in the latest Associated Press poll
- No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll
TOM DAVIS “MENTORS” THE BEST: Some might be surprised at Drake’s success under first-year coach Keno Davis, but he worked under the same mentor who developed Bruce Pearl and Gary Williams into two of the top college basketball coaches in the United States. Together, the trio have combined to win 1,019 college games and that doesn’t include the 598 victories Dr. Tom Davis collected during an illustrious 32-year coaching career.
Williams, who served as an assistant coach under Davis at Lafayette (1972-78) and Boston College (1978-79 ) has accumulated 603 victories in 30 years as a college head coach, including a school record 396 at Maryland where he guided the Terps to the 2002 NCAA title. Williams began his coaching career as a graduate student at Maryland under then freshman coach Tom Davis. The 1969 freshman team finished with a 12-4 record as Williams bonded with Davis to start a lasting relationship.
Pearl has won 390 games in 16 years as a college head coach at Southern Indiana (1992-2001) Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2001-05) and Tennessee (2005-present) He served as an assistant coach, under Davis, at Boston College (1978-82), Stanford (1982-86) and Iowa (1986-92).
Pearl, Williams and Tom Davis have been named national college coaches of the year.
MR. ESPN SPORTSCENTER: Drake senior guard Leonard Houston has shown both his versatility and athleticism by making ESPN SportsCenter top 10 highlights with an array of shots in recent Drake games. He leaped high above the rim at Butler Feb. 23 to lay in a lob pass from Klayton Korver with the play ranking No. 4 on ESPN Sports Center Top 10 Plays Of The Day.
In a Feb. 26 at Missouri State, Houston’s 35-foot bank shot which beat the halftime buzzer was ranked No. 10 on ESPN Sports Center Top 10 Plays Of The Day.
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: Drake lost five MVC games by a combined total of 23 points (4.6 avg.) in 2006-07, en route to a 6-12 league mark. This season the Bulldogs have won six MVC games by a combined total of 26 points. Drake also has cut down on turnovers, owning the lowest average in the league at 12.0. Drake had a school-record low four turnovers at Northern Iowa Feb. 16.
SENIORS LEAD HOME FINALE WIN: Senior guard Adam Emmenecker, playing in his last home game, scored 14 points — all in the second half — while setting a school single-season assist mark as No. 20 ranked Drake held off Wichita State, 73-63, in the Missouri Valley Conference regular season finale for both teams March 1.
Emmenecker had four conventional three-point plays, making free throws after baskets, during a 13-minute stretch in the second half as Drake improved to 25-4, including a 15-3 league mark.
Emmenecker played a brilliant floor game, distributing eight assists, while collecting two steals without committing any turnovers. He set the school single-season assist mark at 177, bettering the previous record of 174 set by Al Stewart last year.
Senior Klayton Korver led a balanced Drake attack with 19 points, including five three-point baskets.
Korver drilled four three-point baskets in the opening 10 minutes of the first half, staking the Bulldogs to a 27-18 lead. That capped a 12-3 scoring spree by Drake that erased a 16-15 deficit. Korver hit two three-point baskets in the surge.
The Bulldogs used conventional three-point plays by Emmenecker and Cox during a 7-0 run that expanded the lead to 45-31.Wichita State was able to cut the deficit to five points twice with the latter coming on a jumper by freshman Aaron Ellis with 4:01 to pull the Shockers within 63-58. But Drake used a 10-3 run, aided by five points from Korver, to widen its advantage to 73-61 with 51 seconds left.
Senior guard Leonard Houston, who also was appearing in his final home game, added 14 points, five rebounds and three steals for Drake. Sophomore guard Josh Young collected 10 points for Drake.
Cox led Drake with seven rebounds. An eighth consecutive sellout crowd of 7,152 saw Drake improve its home record to 14-1 record the most home wins ever in a season.
HE’S B-A-C-K….TRIPLE THREAT YOUNG: After being sidelined for three games while recovering from a sprained right ankle, sophomore guard Josh Young returned to the Drake lineup, sinking a clutch three-point basket in overtime to key the Bulldogs’ victory at Creighton Jan. 22. In the rematch in Des Moines he equaled a then career-high with 24 points, including six treys.
Young is the only player in the MVC who ranks in the top five in scoring, three-point baskets and three-point field goal percentage. He leads the MVC in three-point field goal percentage (.455), while ranking second in scoring (16.1 avg.) three-point baskets (80-2.86 avg.).
When he hit six treys at Milwaukee Nov. 24, following a career-high seven three-point baskets against Cornell Nov. 14, Young became the first player in Drake history to make at least six three-point baskets in consecutive games.
Young had a career-high 25 points at Butler, and has scored 23 or more points in six home games this season. He had 24 against Southern Illinois and Creighton. He also had 23 in a 92-55 victory past Cornell, a 79-44 romp past Iowa State and an 83-53 win against Chicago State. All seven baskets against Cornell were beyond the three-point arc to mark the first time a Drake player made seven three-point baskets in a game since Dontaie Smith made seven treys against Wichita State Jan. 11, 2001.
WALK ONS GAIN ALL-MVC STATUS: Drake is the only team in the MVC and one of the few in all of major college basketball which has two former walk-ons in the starting lineup in junior forward Jonathan Cox and senior guard Adam Emmenecker. Their development has been paramount in Drake’s success with the duo already earning all All-MVC honors.
Cox, a fourth-year junior, who earned a scholarship in 2006-07, leads the MVC in rebounding (8.3 avg.). He has 10 double-doubles this season.
Emmenecker was put on scholarship prior to the start of the 2007-08 season and has responded by leading the league in assists with 182 (6.07 avg.). He has scored 236 points, more than tripling his entire career scoring output of 57 points from the previous three seasons.
During Tom Davis’ tenure as head coach at Drake from 2003-07, former walk-ons Pete Eggers and Aliou Keita eventually earned scholarships while making their way into the starting lineup. Eggers was named the most valuable player on the 2004-05 team.
MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME: Senior guard Leonard Houston ranks sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring with a 14.2 average. He scored a career-high 23 points in home games against Cornell and Duquesne. He had 22 points at Illinois State.
Keep in mind Houston had appeared in 79 career games entering this season without starting a game. He scored a career-high 23 points in just 13 minutes of playing time in Drake’s home opener — a 92-55 victory past Cornell College. Houston made eight of 11 shots from the floor, while collecting three steals, three rebounds and one assist.
He matched that career high with 23 points, including a career-high four three-point baskets, against Duquesne en route to leading Drake to the title in the Iowa Realty Invitational. Houston had a game-high 18 points in an 85-48 victory against North Carolina Central. Houston opened the season with a then career-high 21 points against UC San Diego.
KORVER RISES TO OCCASION: Senior forward Klayton Korver is picking the right time to get hot. Korver has made 48 three-point baskets in his last 16 games (3.0 avg.), surpassing his combined total of 24 in Drake’s first 14 games. For the second straight year in a home game against UNI, Korver equaled a career high with 23 points. But this time around he made a career-high seven treys (eight attempts). It marked the second time a Drake player had made seven treys in a game this season as Korver joined sophomore teammate Josh Young who hit seven treys against Cornell.
UNSUNG FRONTLINE DUO: Drake junior forwards Jonathan Cox and Brent Heemskerk might not be household names in the Missouri Valley Conference but the duo is starting to draw attention. Cox is second in the MVC in rebounding (8.3 avg). Cox has enjoyed 10 double-doubles this season. Heemskerk is shooting 71 percent from the floor, making 67 of 95 shots. Heemskerk opened the season by making 16 of his first 17 shots from the field, including his first 11 straight shots.
IT TAKES A THIEF: The Bulldogs rank second in the MVC in steals, averaging 7.8 per game. The Bulldogs have achieved double figures in steals in seven games, collecting a season-high 15 steals in the opener against UC San Diego, as well as Iowa State and Chicago State. Senior guard Adam Emmenecker tied a career high with five steals in the opener against UC San Diego. Leonard Houston and sophomore guard Josh Young had three steals apiece.
Houston and Emmenecker had three apiece against Iowa State. Drake had 14 steals in games against Cornell and North Carolina Central. Drake had 10 or more steals in nine games last year.
GETTING IT DONE OFF THE COURT TOO: Members of the Drake basketball team also have encountered success off the court with nine student-athletes recording grade-point averages of 3.0 or better during the first semester.
Four players in the starting lineup have earned MVC Scholar Athlete of the Week honors, headed by senior guard Adam Emmenecker, a two-time recipient, who also was named captain of the first team of the CoSIDA Academic All-American University Division team as well as Academic All-American of the Year. Emmenecker owns a 3.97 grade-point average with four majors: management, finance, business and entrepreneurial management. He received only one B in his college career.
Other players, who own a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better who have been nominated to the MVC Scholar-Athlete team include junior forward Brent Heemskerk (3.67 GPA), Klayton Korver (3.11 GPA), Josh Young (3.05 GPA) and Jonathan Cox (3.05).
Cox, Korver and Young have earned MVC Scholar Athlete of the Week honors this season.
GO BIG BLUE: The state of Michigan has proved to be a fertile recruiting area for Drake with four players from the Wolverine state on the roster and 6-11 prep Sean Jones (Carson City) joining the team next year. Senior guard Adam Emmenecker (Saginaw) leads the MVC in assists (6.08 avg.).
Senior Leonard Houston (Holland) ranks sixth in the MVC in scoring (14.2 avg.). Junior forward Brent Heemskerk (Grand Rapids) ranks among the MVC leaders in field goal percentage (.710). Sophomore forward Bill Eaddy (Ypsilanti) came off the bench to score a career-high six points at Indiana State.
MINI BUT MIGHTY: Drake might be one of the smaller teams in the Missouri Valley Conference but that hasn’t hampered the Bulldogs’ ability to rebound. Drake is second in the MVC in rebounding margin at plus 2.9 per game (34.0 to 31.1 avg.). The Bulldogs have outrebounded 19 opponents. The Bulldogs outrebounded Milwaukee, 40-31. Milwaukee‘s Torree Johnson, who had earned double-doubles (21.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg.) in his team’s initial four games, was held to nine points and a season-low six rebounds.
ROAD TESTED: Drake owns a 7-2 record when trailing at halftime, including a 6-2 mark on the road with comeback wins in six MVC road games at Evansville (30-32), Bradley (27-29), Creighton (24-30), Indiana State (30-35), Illinois State (29-38) and Northern Iowa (28-29).
Drake shot 68.2 percent in the second half of a 71-68 comeback win at Evansville and 56 percent in the second half of its last two comeback wins at Indiana State (83-77) and Illinois State (73-70).
DRAKE IN BRACKETBUSTERS: Drake improved its record to 4-1 in the BracketBusters series, with previous victories at Akron (82-78 overtime) in 2004, San Jose State (73-57) in 2005, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (84-76) last year. Drake lost at UC Irvine, 70-67, in 2006.
SOLID DEFENSE: During its 21-game winning streak, Drake held opponents to a combined 40.8 percent shooting from the floor. Only six teams have shot more than 40 percent from the floor —Iowa, .420, Bradley .424, Missouri State, .431; Duquesne, .473, Illinois State, .549 , Creighton .419, Indiana State, .556, Illinois State, .549— during Drake’s winning steak.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Bulldogs have won a school record 10 road games. The Bulldogs also won six straight MVC games on the road for the first time in school history.
ANALYZING THE STREAK: A combination of factors — rebounding, hot shooting, defense — were instrumental in the Bulldogs’ recent 21-game winning streak:
- Drake outrebounded opponents, 34.5 to 30.6
- Drake averaged 8.0 steals, while forcing opponents into an average of 16.2 turnovers
- Drake outscored opponents, 73.7 to 59.4
- Drake averaged 9.5 three-point baskets per game
- Drake limited opponents to 42.1 percent shooting from the floor