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Drake loses third straight, fall to WSU

Photo: Alex Masica

Drake huddled anxiously before last Thursday’s final offensive attack.  With just over 10 seconds remaining on the game clock, freshman Kyndal Clark dribbled the length of Ron Pearson Court in pursuit of a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Missouri State’s Christiana Shorter had other plans, much to Clark’s chagrin.

Shorter blocked Clark’s buzzer-beating attempt to close out a 69-66 victory at the Knapp Center, dropping Drake to fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Two days later, the Bulldogs fell to Wichita State at the Knapp Center, 74-56.

Now 11-11 overall and 5-6 in the MVC, three of Drake’s last four defeats have been decided by five points or fewer.

The Bulldogs entered the Knapp Center last Thursday night with a point to prove and memories to erase.  On Jan. 7, Missouri State routed Drake by 32 points, the Bulldogs’ largest loss this season.  Armed with a new and improved offensive focus, Drake set out to surprise the Bears.

Missouri State had a surprise of its own, though.  Switching from zone defense to man-to-man defense throughout the game, Drake’s offense just couldn’t counter the Bears’ strategy.

Only 48 seconds into the game, senior forward Rachael Hackbarth committed the first of her five fouls.

With four ties and three lead changes in the first half alone, the MVC rivals both enjoyed brief leads until Hackbarth sunk two free throws to push Drake ahead by three at the half, 31-28.

The Bulldogs’ offense opened the second half with a bang.

At the 18:43 mark, senior Amber Wollschlager drained a 3-pointer to give Drake its first two-possession lead at 34-28.

Less than a minute later, Clark drowned a bucket from behind the arc, stretching Drake’s lead to 37-29.

The Bears answered Drake’s early offensive drive with a 15-1 run, lifting Missouri State to a 46-40 lead.

With just over 10 seconds remaining on the game clock, Drake handed the ball to Clark as a fouled-out Hackbarth watched from the bench.  Clark’s final shot ricocheted off Shorter’s hands, sealing Missouri State’s 69-66 win.

“She (Shorter) had her hands up, so I wasn’t going to be able to shoot over her,” Clark said.  “It was just going to be a block, so my thought was, maybe try to go for the body.  They guarded it well.”

Hackbarth boasted 28 points and 10 rebounds in Thursday’s contest, marking her seventh consecutive double-double and her 14th of the 2011-12 season.  Clark added 13 points, followed closely by Wollschlager’s 10-point effort.

Though Missouri State earned another win over the Bulldogs, Drake head coach Amy Stephens looked at the positive outcomes.

“I thought we did a good job of fighting back,” Stephens said.  “I thought our team really competed.  When you go into a game like this, you don’t know what to expect because we played so poorly down there (at Missouri State).”

Following last Thursday’s dramatic final seconds, a cornerstone of Drake’s 2011-12 season goals remains forefront: to play 40 minutes of consistent basketball.

“We’ve got to finish,” Stephens said. “We’ve got to finish games. We’ve got to keep Hackbarth in the game.”

On Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs took on Wichita State, the MVC’s top team.  The Shockers’ Jessica Diamond controlled the tempo, dealing Drake a 74-56 defeat.

Diamond recorded 22 points for the Shockers, who shot 56.4 percent from the floor.

Hackbarth nabbed 12 boards and scored a team-high 17 points for the Bulldogs.  Clark added 11 points, including 2-of-5 shooting from 3-point land.  Junior forward Stephanie Running contributed 10 points.

Wichita State’s tireless offense proved troublesome for the Bulldogs.

“Wichita State is a really athletic team and in the beginning, we gritted it out,” Running said.  “Then, I think on our defense, just maybe we were a half-step slow, and we didn’t really recover.”

Hackbarth also noted Drake’s early defensive lapse.

“At three minutes left in the first half, we weren’t hitting shots on offense and it affected our defense,” Hackbarth said.  “That’s not the kind of team we wanted to be, but that’s what happened on the court tonight, and it carried into the second half.”

For Stephens, Drake’s four-game home stand is a bitter reminder of the MVC’s notoriously competitive field.

“We just didn’t do the job of protecting our home court, and we can still finish in the top half and that’s the encouraging thing,” Stephens said.  “Starting next weekend, there are must-wins if we’re going to have a chance. We can definitely maybe slide into fourth or fifth. Anybody can beat anybody in our league, and that’s exciting on one hand, but you’ve got to be ready to play every night or you’re going to get beat.”

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