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Drake drops heartbreaker on the road

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For the Drake women’s basketball team, one number stands out amid a long list of goals: 40. With the season just beyond the halfway mark, the quest for 40 minutes of consistent basketball continues to trouble the Bulldogs.

Last Friday night, though, Illinois State forced the Bulldogs to play five extra minutes of basketball, minutes that ticked away in the Redbirds’ favor as Drake fell 71-67 in overtime.

Despite poor offensive execution in the first half, Drake lingered in the Redbirds’ rearview mirror until Illinois State powered a 9-0 run to round out a 30-22 lead entering the locker room.

Early foul trouble plagued senior forward and leading scorer Rachael Hackbarth, sending her to the sidelines with three fouls with 1:30 left in the first half.

“We had poor offensive execution in the first half, and we were still in the game,” head coach Amy Stephens said in a Drake athletics press release. “It was ours to take.”

Drake stepped onto the court with renewed energy and consistency following halftime, leaving Illinois State’s defense in the dust on a 17-6 offensive run to secure a two-possession lead at 55-49.  With 5:47 left, the Redbirds hit their offensive stride, eliminating Drake’s advantage to even the score at 60.

Just 24 seconds remained on the clock when Drake senior Brittnye McSparron missed a layup. A Redbird turnover, however, gave the Bulldogs a final opportunity to close out the game.

Like McSparron’s layup just seconds earlier, Hackbarth’s buzzer-beating shot rimmed out, sending the Missouri Valley Conference rivals into overtime.

“Our second half performance was terrific,” said Stephens, whose team edged Illinois State 38-30 in the second half. “We took the lead at the perfect time but couldn’t finish it off.”

The Bulldogs just couldn’t carry their second half presence into overtime, though, and the Redbirds completed a four-point victory. Drake dropped to 9-8 overall and 3-3 in the MVC.

“It never comes down to just one thing in overtime,” Stephens said. “I love the way that our kids competed, and it’s unfortunate that we gave it back to them at the end.”

Although last Friday’s contest ended in a Drake defeat, three Bulldog players recorded double digits in scoring.  McSparron led Drake with 18 points, including flawless free throw shooting (6-of-6 from the line).

Senior guard Amber Wollschlager recorded 15 points, and Hackbarth added 12 points alongside 15 rebounds.

Freshman guard Kyndal Clark led Drake from behind the arc, scoring all of her nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point land.

The Bulldogs are back in action on Friday night when they take on Bradley at the Knapp Center.  Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.

Drake took on Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind., yesterday afternoon. Results from that game were not available for this edition of The Times-Delphic.

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