LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Roman Penn scored 19 points, Sardaar Calhoun made four of his career-high five 3-pointers in the second half, and Drake beat No. 15 Mississippi State 58-52 on Tuesday.
Calhoun finished with 17 points and Tucker DeVries added 15 for Drake (9-3), which defeated a ranked opponent for the first time since 2013.
“I was just excited to get out there and get a win against an undefeated team going into Christmas break,” Calhoun said. “I just feel like we played together today and everything was going for us and shots fell for me.”
Eric Reed Jr. scored all of his team-high 11 points in the first half for Mississippi State (11-1), which squandered the 10-point lead it held early in the second half.
“We talked a ton about how when you have an undefeated record and a ranking like that, you’re going to take everybody's best shot,” MSU coach Chris Jans said.
DeVries' floater in the lane put Drake up 52-50 with 1:51 left, and Penn hit a jumper for a four-point lead with just over a minute left.
A basket by Dashawn Davis cut it back to two, and MSU had a chance to tie or take the lead after Penn missed from in close. But Drake got the ball back with 14.4 seconds left when D.J. Jeffries slipped to the floor as Cameron Matthews sent a pass his way and the ball flew out of bounds untouched.
Penn made four free throws in the last 10 seconds to secure Drake's first win over a Power Five opponent since it beat Kansas State in the 2020-21 season opener.
“That's a tough team,” Penn said of MSU, “and they're from the SEC so they play physical and have some bigger guys. I love the fight we had. I love the way we came back second half.”
MSU entered the day having played the 300th toughest schedule out of 363 teams, according to the NCAA, and its eight wins over quad four opponents in the NET rankings were tied for second most in the nation. MSU had to come from behind in the second halves of its previous two games, against Jackson State and Nicholls.
MSU couldn't complete a comeback this time against the Missouri Valley Conference preseason favorite.
“Folks that have been watching us know we haven’t been playing our best,” Jans said. “I was hoping that we would regroup today against a very good Drake team. I know that Drake had their attention. They knew the preseason predictions in the Valley and the NCAA Tournament win last year and all the returnees. So it wasn’t like our guys overlooked them by any stretch of the imagination at all.”
Drake: Drake had come into the game after two straight losses and left with its first win over a Southeastern Conference opponent since it beat Georgia on Dec. 22, 1973.
Mississippi State: The numbers show MSU is one of the best defensive teams in the country, but the offense can be sporadic, especially when the opponent puts the clamps on big man and season scoring leader Tolu Smith, who was held to nine points.
Jans second-guessed his nonconference scheduling after the game, particularly his decisions to play Akron in Philadelphia, at Jackson State and against Drake in Lincoln. The neutral-site game was part of the Battle in the Vault event at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“I’ve told everyone we played three of these games that probably weren’t the smartest thing that I’ve ever done,” Jans said. “It just worked out that way. Obviously, we were unscathed up until this point. I was hoping that we could get through it and have a merry Christmas and a happy holiday and all that good stuff and sit at home undefeated. But unfortunately, that wasn’t in the plans.”
Drake hosts NAIA St. Ambrose on Wednesday in a game moved up one day because of a winter storm forecast for central Iowa.
Mississippi State opens SEC play at home against No. 9 Alabama on Dec. 28.
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