STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
The Drake women continued their season with a duo of victories over Missouri Valley Conference foes Missouri State and Wichita State this weekend.
The Bulldogs move to 14-6 overall with a perfect 9-0 in the conference, their longest winning streak since 2001, continuing their best MVC start in in 17 years.
The Bulldogs had their hands full on Friday night with Missouri State, withstanding an onslaught of clutch threes from the Bears on the way to overtime at the Knapp Center.
Drake struggled to put the Bears away, the game remaining close for the entirety of the second half after blowing a first half 14 point lead. Kenzie Williams scored the final five points for Missouri State, including a layup with 51 seconds left that led to an 85-85 tie at the end of regulation.
In overtime, it was all Drake. The Bulldogs outscored the Bears 9-4 on their way to a 94-89 victory.
Lizzy Wendell tied her career high with 43 points, while Caitlin Ingle recorded a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
“This game was a great one to be on this side for,” Coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “Missouri played really well, but when they made their runs, we came back.”
The win was fueled by a packed Knapp Center, the fans cheering on their Bulldogs.
“I’m so thrilled by our fanbase. They are the best in the country and really fueled our team tonight,” Baranczyk said.
An equivalent crowd braved the elements for Sunday’s matchup, again fueling the team to victory. The 8-0 Bulldogs faced off against Wichita State, the only other undefeated team in MVC conference play at the time.
The game was a back and forth affair from the opening tip, no team leading by more than nine throughout. Wendell drained a long three in the opening 13 seconds of the game to open the scoring, her first of 17 points on the day.
Despite 11 turnovers in the first half, Drake was able to keep the game close, matching the Shockers shot for shot. This included a couple of huge threes from Paige Greiner off the bench, her second three of the half giving Drake a five point lead that helped hold off the Shocker threat. The halftime score was 29-27 in favor of Drake.
Wichita State took a 37-34 advantage early in the half, but Drake responded with force. Carly Grenfell scored five points in 20 seconds, spurring forward a 10-0 Bulldog run.
Drake went on to hold a 54-45 lead, the biggest lead in the game. Wichita State would respond with a 16-0 run of their own to take a seven point lead behind the shooting of Michaela Dapprich and Alex Harden. With 2:42 left, Becca Jonas hit a layup and back-to-back three pointers by Wendell and Jonas gave Drake the lead that would carry until the final buzzer, a 64-61 Bulldog victory.
“This was truly a game of runs,” Baranczyk said. “Most of their final run was because we didn’t take care of the ball, but they are a great defensive team.”
Drake accomplished this despite committing 26 turnovers against the second best defensive team in the country. Wendell’s 17 points put her over 1,000 total for her career, the 27th Drake player to reach that mark and the fourth sophomore. Dean and Greiner each contributed 12 on a combined 5-10 from three, while Jonas recorded a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end.
“I’m really, really proud of our team,” Baranczyk said. “Wichita State is a great team and for us to come back is a huge moment in our season.”
Drake now travels to Illinois for games against Southern Illinois and Illinois State, returning home on February 13th to face UNI.