Story by Taylor Soule
Photo by Joel Venzke
Freshman Ashley Bartow and sophomore Kyndal Clark scored 19 points apiece to lift Drake over Missouri Valley Conference rival Missouri State on Saturday at the Knapp Center, 75-64. The win snapped a four-game losing streak, improving the Bulldogs to 8-16 overall and 3-10 in MVC play.
“Tonight’s win was just a huge, huge, huge, huge feat for us today because we’ve struggled, and everybody knows that, but our players did not stop fighting tonight,” head coach Jennie Baranczyk said in a Drake athletics press release.
The young Bulldogs maintained composure throughout the 40 minutes, containing the Bears’ late offensive surges.
“We sustained every run,” Baranczyk said. “We never let the lead go, we maintained that the entire second half, and so I am really, really proud of our effort.”
The Bulldogs opened the game with a statement, sinking four of their first six baskets en route to a 10-0 advantage. At 7:20, the Bears finally answered with a bucket of their own.
Drake entered the break with a 38-28 lead.
A transformed Missouri State squad hit the court after halftime, narrowing the gap to two possessions off a string of Drake misses. Sophomore Liza Heap stopped the Bears’ run with a couple of key buckets.
Baraczyk noted Heap’s turnaround since a shaky performance against Illinois State on Feb. 8.
“She led our comeback,” Baranczyk said. “She goes from not playing at all in the Illinois State game, comes back to practice the next day, has great energy, has great presence. She comes in in the Indiana State game, she leads our comeback in that game. And then, in the last two games, she started for us, and we can’t keep her off the floor.”
Heap’s resourceful, relentless attitude energized the Bulldogs on Saturday.
“I mean, there’s so many things she can do,” Baranczyk said. “She provides so much versatility for us and a great attitude. She goes, and she goes, and she goes, and she does what we need to do to win.”
That Heap surge translated into key defensive stops down the stretch.
Heap finished with seven points and five rebounds.
Besides 19 points, Clark registered seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Redshirt sophomore guard Carly Grenfell contributed 10 points.
Kenzie Williams led Missouri State with 17 points.
Though the Bulldogs snapped a skid with Saturday’s victory, the celebration gave way to new goals.
“We need to do a better job on the boards,” Baranczyk said. “That’s going to be a big factor for us, especially going on the road. The other thing we need to do is we need to continue to maintain our composure and play our basketball because we do go through some lulls, but we’re getting some really good shots in those lulls, and we just have to knock them down.”
Drake opens a three-game road stand against Valley rival Bradley at 6 p.m. on Thursday in Peoria, Ill.
With the excitement of Saturday still lingering, the Bulldogs look to parlay that momentum into a string of MVC road victories.