Drake Tops Wichita State, Will Face No. 6 USC in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2021

Drake's Joseph Yesufu (1) dunks on Wichita State's Clarence Jackson during the first half of a First Four game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Thursday, March 18, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
Robert Franklin/Associated Press

It wasn't pretty, but Drake is advancing in the NCAA tournament. 

Led by a strong showing from Joseph Yesufu, the Bulldogs knocked off Wichita State, 53-52, in First Four action.

Wichita State had a chance to win the game down one after Yesufu missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Alterique Gilbert's three at the buzzer hit the front of the rim and Drake survived. 

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

SURVIVE AND ADVANCE! 😱 Drake will square off with USC in the First Round after beating Wichita State in a thriller! #FirstFour #MarchMadness https://t.co/1ZIxEtMMCj

Be it nerves or just excellent defense, the two teams got off to a sluggish start on the offensive end, with Wichita State taking a 21-20 lead into halftime. The Shockers shot just 28.1 percent in the first half, while the Bulldogs weren't much better at 30.8 percent. 

There was this Yesufu arena-rattling dunk to liven things up, however:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

JOSEPH YESUFU. MONSTER SLAM. 💥 @DrakeBulldogsMB | #MarchMadness https://t.co/e6Yxs34VWw

br_betting @br_betting

Joseph Yesufu just baptized his defender on *that* poster 🤯 https://t.co/CwaUqONkkT

Things didn't exactly open up in the second half. Wichita State finished 3-of-18 from three and 11-of-22 from the free-throw line. Drake turned the ball over 13 times and had seven shots blocked. 

Nicholas Huba @ACPressHuba

Drake vs. Wichita State has been the ultimate rock fight. and I'm enjoying it because #MarchMadness is back.

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

Give Drake a ton of credit. Bulldogs were close to being blown out early, but hung around. Heck of a win and season. Lost Roman Penn for season, Tank Hemphill plays 10 minutes in first game back from broken foot. Joseph Yesufu was awesome. Drake gets Evan Mobley and USC next.

Chris Hassel @Hassel_Chris

Drake wins in the tournament for the first time in 50 years! This will live on forever in Des Moines https://t.co/NQKFX5kkao

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Drake advances after defeating Wichita State 53-52 in the First Four. @DrakeBulldogsMB is now 6-0 in games decided by 5 or fewer points this season, tied with Northwestern State for the most such wins without a loss in Division I.

Hey, March Madness isn't always about free-flowing, beautiful basketball. Sometimes it's a backyard scrap. Drake will take the win, however ugly.


Key Stats

Joseph Yesufu, Drake: 21 points

Darnell Brodie, Drake: Nine points, 10 rebounds

Tremell Murphy, Drake: 11 points

Morris Udeze, Wichita State: 22 points

Tyson Etienne, Wichita State: One point, 0-of-6 from the field

Dexter Dennis, Wichita State: 13 points, seven rebounds


Joseph Yesufu Came to Play

Drake struggled mightily with Wichita State's defense throughout the game, but Yesufu repeatedly had an answer or a big shot up his sleeve. He carried the Bulldogs. 

Seriously, for the majority of this game Drake's offense was pretty putrid:

Danny Lawhon @DannyLawhon

We have reached the point in the proceedings where I should feel like I applaud any Drake possession that results in a field-goal attempt. Back to 😳-level execution for the Bulldogs.

Jeremy Woo @JeremyWoo

Drake hasn't had this many misses since Comeback Season

Hey, a win's a win. And Yesufu was excellent. Drake can thank him for carrying it to the first round. 


Tyson Etienne Had a Night to Forget

On a night when Wichita State's leading scorer, Etienne, struggled mightily from the field and got himself in foul trouble, Udeze tried to pick up the slack with arguably his best game of the season. 

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

There’s NO stopping Morris Udeze.

Chris Lilly KAKE @ChrisLillyKAKE

Morris Udeze doing it on BOTH ends of the court again for the Shockers. He's putting Wichita State on his back

It still wasn't enough. The Shockers relied on Udeze's big performance and a stout defensive showing to stay in the game. They desperately needed Etienne to provide a spark, however, and he simply couldn't find his rhythm. 

It was a tough way for him to end an otherwise excellent season. You can imagine he won't have to search far for inspiration this offseason.              


What's Next? 

Drake will face sixth-seeded USC on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET.