With the regular season complete U-N-I and Drake now look ahead to this weekend’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. The Panthers finished the regular season tied for second place by winning seven of their last eight games — including Monday night’s 68-52 pounding of 15th ranked Southern Illinois. The win spoiled the Salukis’ hopes of finishing the Valley regular season race unbeaten. It will be a memorable Senior Night for David Gruber and Matt Schneiderman.U-N-I coach Greg McDermott who says Gruber’s 16-points and nine rebounds while playing with a broken hand typifies this team and the hard work that’s gone into the effort. McDermott calls Gruber a “warrior” who really shouldn’t be playing.The Panthers finished with a 17-9 record overall. This season also saw increased attendance at the UNI-Dome. More than 78-hundred fans watched Monday night’s game, McDermot says he told the team, “if you want to know where this program’s come, just look up in the stands.” He says a lot of the crowd came because of what Southern Illinois has done, but he says they’ll remember what the Panthers have done and will come back.U-N-I opens the Valley Tournament Saturday night against the winner of the game between Bradley and Illinois State.Drake is the sixth seed and will play the final game Saturday night against Wichita State. The Bulldogs squandered an 11-point second half lead in a 73-68 loss at Illinois State.Tom Davis says the game overall really didn’t mean anything in terms of the conference standing or season, and he just wanted to come out of the game healthy and learn something. Though, he admits he hates losing, though he says he tried not to lay that on the players. Davis completes his first regular season as Drake’s coach with a 12-15 record, a season which began with the loss of leading scorer Luke McDonald. He says they’ve been shooting better in the last couple of weeks and he says they’ve made some progress.
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