STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
Drake Women’s Basketball made a statement Friday evening, rolling over the University of Northern Iowa Panthers 87-67 in front of a season high of 3,214 fans at the annual “Hoops 4 Hope” game, proceeds being donated to help development programs for children in southern Africa.
Paced by 30 points from sophomore Lizzy Wendell, Drake improved to 11-1 in conference play, setting themselves up for the stretch run and a hopeful NCAA Tournament berth. The Panthers left the Knapp Center with their tails between their legs, falling to 8-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Despite the final score, it looked early on like it would be a nail-biter as UNI got the first bucket of the game and held the Bulldogs in check early on. They stayed within one possession for the first five minutes until Maddy Dean took over.
Scoring eight consecutive points, Dean gave Drake a boost and got them ahead in the first half. Drake maintained its lead as the half wore on, but the Panthers hung tough, coming back from a 10 point deficit to make the game 36-33 at the half. Dean led all scorers with 12 at the intermission.
“You’ve got to respect every team, and we made sure that we weren’t upset tonight,” Dean said.
The second half was a completely different story as Drake roared to a commanding lead behind Wendell. The sophomore forward scored 12 of the first 14 points in the half to give Drake an 11 point lead that gave the Bulldogs some breathing room. UNI drew within six at the 13:12 mark, but that was the closest they would get.
Wendell scored 20 in the second half alone, including a three pointer at 16:50 that got the crowd on its feet. After a Bulldog steal, point guard Caitlin Ingle drove the lane and flipped a behind-the-back pass to Wendell for a three from the left wing, deflating the UNI team and raising the noise levels of the Knapp Center to new levels.
“We came out in the second half and wanted to finish what we started in the first half,” Wendell said after the game.
Wendell and Dean helped the Bulldogs to pull away, Drake piling up 51 points in the second half and controlling the ball, committing only two turnovers over the 20 minute stretch.
“I’m really proud of our overall effort,” coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “Our rebounding, the points in the paint, just about everything.”
As Drake pulled away Dean secured another double-double. She pulled down her 10th rebound with 3:33 remaining while also scoring 23 points.
Dean was also named as the MVC Newcomer of the week. This double-double was her second in a row and her eighth straight game with 10 or more points.
Ingle flirted again with a triple-double, ending the game with eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Liza Heap also contributed seven points and five rebounds, which helped Drake earn a 48-34 advantage on the boards. Carly Grenfell scored five points on electrifying baseline cuts that provided a spark to the Bulldog offense.
“To come into the Knapp and beat a good team like Northern Iowa and play the way we did was great,” Baranczyk said. “This is a grind, you see upsets all the time, but we fed off the crowd and got the win.”
Northern Iowa was led by forward Ellie Herzberg, who had 17 points off the bench, as well as guard Madison Weekly, who poured in 15, including nine points from beyond the arc.
Drake moves to 16-7 overall, and their 11-1 conference record remains the top in the MVC. The Bulldogs have earned their break, not playing until Friday, Feb. 27th. They will face the Evansville Purple Aces at home. Tip off for that game is at 7:05 p.m.