Drake defeats Wichita State in First Four, will play USC in first round

Drake's D.J. Wilkins is defended by Wichita State's Tyson Etienne during the first half of Drake's 53-52 win Thursday.
(Robert Franklin / Associated Press)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Joseph Yesufu scored 21 points and Drake beat Wichita State 53-52 on Thursday night in the First Four, the Bulldogs’ first NCAA Tournament win in a half-century.

Drake’s previous tournament victory was 50 years ago to the day — March 18, 1971, against Notre Dame.

The Bulldogs were hardly overmatched in this year’s tournament field, however — they came in with 25 wins, second most of the 68 teams behind top overall seed Gonzaga, and their tense matchup with a longtime Missouri Valley Conference rival brought some early drama to the pandemic-affected tourney.


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.

The win was extra validation for Drake coach Darian DeVries, who was rewarded with a contract extension through 2028-29 on Wednesday.

The California Baptist women’s basketball team is 24-0, but can’t play in the NCAA tournament because the school is transitioning from Division II Division I.

March 18, 2021

Tremell Murphy added 11 points for 11th-seeded Drake (26-4), which advanced to play sixth-seeded USC in the West Region on Saturday.

Morris Udeze scored a career-high 22 points and Dennis added 13 for Wichita State (16-6).

It was the 152nd meeting between the former MVC rivals. Wichita State left for the American Athletic Conference in 2017. Both mid-major powers were given at-large bids into the NCAA field.

Drake missed 10 straight shots as Wichita State built an early 18-6 lead.

Norfolk State, Appalachian State 53

Norfolk State forward J.J. Matthews, right, shoots over Appalachian State forward RJ Duhart.
Norfolk State forward J.J. Matthews, right, shoots over Appalachian State forward RJ Duhart, left, tries to block a shot by Norfolk State forward J.J. Matthews during the second half Thursday.
(Doug McSchooler / Associated Press)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Devante Carter made two free throws with 8.6 seconds remaining, and Norfolk State held on after blowing an 18-point second-half lead.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Spartans completed a sweep by historically Black colleges and universities on the first day of NCAA Tournament play, joining Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Texas Southern, which beat Mount St. Mary’s earlier Thursday. Norfolk State advanced to face top overall seed Gonzaga on Saturday.

Jalen Hawkins scored 20 of his 24 points before halftime for the Spartans (17-7), who earned their first tournament win since upsetting No. 2 seed Missouri in 2012.

Justin Forrest had 18 points for App State (17-12), which shot 27% and missed its final 10 attempts.

The Mountaineers pushed ahead 51-45 on Forrest’s layup with 5:48 remaining, but its only points after that were two free throws by Adrian Delph with 1:03 left that made it 53-52. Carter, who shot 1 of 10 from the field, answered by making his only two free-throw attempts of the game. App State missed two late shots on its final possession.

Texas Southern 60, Mount St. Mary’s 52

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — John Walker III scored a season-high 19 points and Jordan Gilliam had 12 to help Texas Southern erase a 10-point halftime deficit and beat Mount St. Mary’s in the first NCAA tournament game in nearly two years.

It’s the second straight First Four victory for the Tigers (17-8), who also won in 2018 — their most recent tournament appearance. Texas Southern, the No. 16 seed in the East Region, won its 10th straight game and faces top-seeded Michigan (20-4) on Saturday.

Walker also matched his career high with nine rebounds.

Damian Chong Qui scored 14 points and Mezie Offurum had 10 points and 16 rebounds for the Mountaineers (12-11), who fell to 1-9 in tourney play.

Can you beat Los Angeles Times expert NCAA Tournament picks? Bill Plaschke, Dylan Hernández and J. Brady McCollough share their bracket selections.

March 18, 2021

It was the first NCAA Tournament game since Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime to win the national championship on April 8, 2019 — a span of 710 days. And the atmosphere inside Indiana University’s Assembly Hall was alien to the event known as March Madness. Only players, coaches and staff members were permitted on the court level and an estimated 150 people sat in the cavernous lower bowl.

It didn’t take long for Texas Southern to change the game after trailing 30-20 at the half.

Walker and Gilliam scored the first 11 points to give the Tigers a 31-30 lead. The Tigers started pulling away with a 12-4 spurt that made it 46-42 with 8:10 to play and finally put the game away at the free-throw line.