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Bulldog madness comes up short

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Photos courtesy of Chris Donahue

Coming into the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Championship, the Bulldogs knew exactly what they needed to do to win the tournament: Win four games in four days. Boy, did they come close.

The Bulldogs’ improbable run to the MVC tournament final ended Sunday afternoon with a 53-38 defeat to the fourth-seeded Creighton Bluejays.

Drake trailed for most of the game but was able to trim the deficit to 39-36 after a lay-up by freshman Kyndal Clark with over five minutes to go. But the Bulldogs did not get closer than that the rest of the way. Creighton closed out the game on a 14-2 run to claim the MVC title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore Carli Tritz led the way for the Bluejays with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.

The loss put the Bulldogs record at 18-15. Thanks to its terrific run to the championship and a strong non-conference schedule, Drake has a shot at a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) bid.

The first half was an evenly matched affair, with both teams struggling to get going on offense.

The Bulldogs, who were the seventh seed in the tournament, jumped out to an early 4-0 lead thanks to a jumper by senior Rachael Hackbarth and a lay-up by sophomore Morgan Reid.

The Bluejays responded with a 7-0 run to take a three-point lead. After that, things started getting really tight for both squads.

On one side, Creighton applied terrific ball pressure on the perimeter and kept Hackbarth off the block. But on the other end, Drake forced Creighton to settle with three-point attempts. Creighton made only three of its 13 attempts from behind the arc in the first half.

After seven lead changes, the Bluejays closed out the half on a small 5-0 run to take a 20-16 lead into the break. The difference in the first half might have been the Bulldogs’ seven turnovers to the Bluejays’ four turnovers.

Drake committed more turnovers than field goals (5) in the first half and went the last 5:37 of the half without converting a field goal. The Bulldogs shot 21.7 percent from the field, while the Bluejays shot 28 percent in the first half.

The Bluejays got off to a good start in the second half, nailing a three-pointer to extend their lead to 23-16.

Drake responded with a 6-0 run highlighted by a jumper from Morgan Reid and a lay-up by senior Amber Wollschlager to cut the lead to 23-22. That’s the closest Drake would get to Creighton in the second half.

Creighton fought back with a decisive 14-0 run that featured a pair from three-pointers to take its biggest lead of the game at 37-22.

The Bluejays made five of their nine three-point attempts in the second half.

But much like they did this tournament, Drake was able to fight back and go on a run.

The Bulldogs responded with a 14-2 run of their own to make things interesting. Hackbarth got things going again with an old fashioned three-point play. Reid sank a pair of short jumpers, before redshirt freshman Carly Grenfell converted on a three-pointer to cut the lead to five.

After a Creighton timeout, Clark converted on a lay-up and got fouled as well. Clark missed the free throw and that’s the closest Drake got the rest of the way, 39-36.

Hackbarth led the way for the Bulldogs with her 25th double-double of the year, finishing with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Reid finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Clark dished out five assists to go with two points.

The Bulldogs’ run to the MVC championship featured three tight contests in three days.

On Thursday, Drake was able to sneak by 10th seeded Evansville with a 52-48 win.

On Friday, Drake took on the second seed of the tournament, Illinois State. The Bulldogs trailed for most of the game, including an eight-point deficit late in the game. But Drake fought back and it was Clark giving the Bulldogs the victory with her last-second lay-up to oust ISU 56-54.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs took on the three seed, Wichita State. The Bulldogs never trailed and hit their first six three-point attempts to build a 12-point lead at the half. The lead grew to as many as 18 in the second half. Drake withstood a furious rally by the Shockers and held on for a 56-52 win to earn a spot in the title game.

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