WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Drake's small, energetic contingent of fans sounded like it had waited forever to let loose.
The several hundred blue-clad supporters who got to see the Bulldogs in person on Thursday night ended up witnessing the team's first NCAA Tournament win in a half-century.
Joseph Yesufu scored 21 points and Drake held on to beat Wichita State 53-52 in a tense First Four matchup between former Missouri Valley Conference rivals.
Drake's last tournament victory had been 50 years ago to the day —- March 18, 1971, against Notre Dame.
“To get a win for our program that hasn't happened in 50 years — it's really exciting,” Bulldogs coach Darian DeVries said. “These guys have fought through so much, and for them to be the ones to get us one, I think is really deserving.”
Attendance was limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving most of the seats at Mackey Arena empty, and the Drake crowd finally made some noise at the end of a game that deserved a much bigger audience.
Wichita State’s Dexter Dennis made a 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining to trim Drake’s lead to a point. The Bulldogs got the ball in to Yesufu, who was fouled. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give the Shockers a chance, but Wichita State’s Alterique Gilbert settled for a long 3-pointer that hit the front rim as time expired.
“Perseverance,” Yesufu said. “We’ve been doing that all year.”