Drake 79, Illinois St. 73

For The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A 16-1 record, a 15-game winning streak and sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Could a Top 25 ranking be next for Drake?

It just might happen.

Drake got a career-high 19 points from former walk-on Adam Emmenecker and rallied in the second half to beat Illinois State 79-73 Saturday night in a matchup of the only teams that were unbeaten in Valley play.

Now the Bulldogs will be awaiting the release of The Associated Press poll on Monday to see if they're included for the first time since the end of the 1974-75 season. In the most recent poll, Drake was first among the others receiving votes, 65 points behind No. 25 Villanova.

"I think the team is deserving of a Top 25 ranking," Drake coach Keno Davis said. "That's not saying I think this team is a Top 25 ballclub. I really don't know about that.

"But to be able to have that kind of record and do it over the long haul, I think they're very deserving of that kind of ranking."

There could be room for the Bulldogs to move up because four of the bottom six teams lost during the past week -- No. 20 Xavier, No. 21 Miami, No. 23 Rhode Island and No. 24 Clemson.

"We don't play in one of the big-time conferences where you play perennial powerhouses, so you really don't know," Emmenecker said. "We'll let the pollsters decide that and we'll be excited to see how that comes out next week."

Whether the Bulldogs crack the Top 25 or not, they'll start the week atop the MVC with their 7-0 record. They pulled ahead of Illinois State with great balance -- four players scored in double figures -- and with some gritty determination after falling behind by 12 with less than 14 minutes to play.

Davis gave an assist to the sellout crowd of 7,152.

"We played as hard as we could and it just really came through for us," he said. "Our fans deserve a lot of credit. Without that kind of crowd tonight, we probably would have lost."

It was Drake's third victory without conference scoring leader Josh Young, who hasn't played since spraining his ankle in the second half of a victory over Indiana State on Jan. 9. The Bulldogs have had a different scoring leader in each of the games he's missed.

"They've got so many good shooters, it's hard to concentrate on one player," Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich said. "They're an outstanding team even without Josh Young. We just couldn't stop their dribble penetration."

Anthony Slack and Osiris Eldridge each scored 21 points for Illinois State (14-4, 6-1), which had won nine straight games. The Redbirds shot 55 percent, but committed 17 turnovers and couldn't regain control after Drake ran off 10 straight points to open a 69-64 lead with 3:10 play.

The key play in that stretch came when Emmenecker rebounded his own miss with the score tied at 64 and fed Jacob Baryenbruch, who nailed a 3-pointer that put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. Baryenbruch, who finished with eight points, has replaced Young in the lineup.

"He's played great for us," Emmenecker said. "He hasn't shot the ball overly well, but he plays good defense, he plays solid, he doesn't turn the ball over, he gets assists and we know what to expect from him."

Leonard Houston added 18 points for Drake, and Jonathan Cox had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Emmenecker scored at the buzzer to give Drake a 69-68 victory over Bradley on Wednesday night, then came back with an even bigger game against the Redbirds. He shot 6-for-10, all on drives to the basket, and added six rebounds, six assists and two steals.

His previous high had been his 12 points against Bradley.

"He's the perfect point guard for Drake," Jankovich said. "He's tough-minded and he keeps his composure."