Story by Austin Cannon
The Drake women’s basketball team suffered its second straight two-point loss on Thursday, this time to the Indiana State Sycamores, 73-71.
“Tonight is another tough game. We’ve lost two games now by two points, one in overtime, one that came down to the wire again,” said Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk. “But also, they’re two teams that are tied for first. I think that shows that we’re making progress.”
Freshman forward Lizzy Wendell poured in a game-high 28 points, and MVC leading-scorer Kyndal Clark chipped in 20 points for the Bulldogs.
Down 71-68 with 1:52 to play, Bulldog freshman guard Caitlin Ingle hit both ends of a “one and one” to cut the lead to one.
The two teams traded empty possessions before Sycamore Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir missed a layup, and a jump ball was called in the in the battle for the rebound with 17 seconds left.
The arrow favored Indiana State On the ensuing inbounds play, redshirt junior Carly Grenfell was forced to foul Abdul-Qaadir with 16.2 ticks left.
Abdul-Qaadir, who finished with 23 points and six assists to lead the Sycamores, knocked down both free throws to extend the lead to 73-70.
After nearly turning the ball over twice, Drake was able to get the ball in the hands of sharpshooter Clark, who was promptly fouled by Natasha Zurek.
Drake took a timeout to talk strategy with 4.3 seconds left in regulation.
Clark came out of the timeout and made the first free throw, closing the gap to 73-71. For Drake to have a chance, she had to miss the second and hope a Bulldog could grab the rebound.
“You try and put your team in a situation that they can possibly win. That’s what I went for. I knew Lizzy (Wendell) was coming onto that side, so I just tried to leave it on that side, on the left side,” Clark said.
She managed to miss the second, but Zurek was able to grab the game-deciding board for the Sycamores to end the game.
Drake was down 48-41 at halftime and found itself in a 53-41 hole with 17 minutes to go.
However, Wendell’s spin-move layup ignited a 10-minute, 23-9 Bulldog run that gave Drake a 64-62 lead with 6:35 to go. The Bulldogs held their final lead of the game, 68-66, at the 4:35 mark.
The Sycamores shot a blistering 72 percent in the first half. Drake played a compact 2-3 zone for most of the game, allowing some open looks from beyond the arc. ISU was able to hit 8-of-11 threes in the first 20 minutes.
“Sometimes, that’s how it goes, and I think that they had two players that came in and started off really hot, especially from the outside from the three-point line,” Baranczyk said. “They don’t normally do that. This is a season-high for them to hit that many threes.”
Drake took an early 18-10 lead on a Wendell layup, but the Sycamores were able to ride their hot shooting to tie it at 25 and then take the lead.
The iron wasn’t as kind in the second half, where the Sycamores were only able to hit 34 percent of their shots.
The Bulldogs were able to hit 41 percent on the game but missed a few key shots near the rim.
“I think we all missed a couple easy ones that could’ve gone down,” Baranczyk said.
Clark converted on all four of her first half three-point attempts, giving her 104 on the season and tying the Valley’s single-season record for 3-pointers made.
She went 0-for-3 from three-point land in the second half, so the record will have to wait for at least another game.
Over the last five games, Clark and Wendell have averaged 23 and 22.8 points per game, respectively.
Together, they make up the highest-scoring duo in the conference.
Drake hosts Illinois State on Saturday for Senior Day. The Bulldogs then travel to St. Louis on Thursday for the MVC tournament, where a berth in the Big Dance will be at stake.