Drake advances to 13th MVC Tourney title game

MOLINE, Ill. — The No. 1 seeded Drake women’s basketball team advanced to the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with a 68-59 win over No. 4 seeded Southern Illinois in the semifinals Saturday.

The Bulldogs (25-7) prevailed behind a 22-point effort from Maddy Dean, while recently-crowned MVC Player of the Year Becca Hittner added 15 points in Drakes’ 20th-consecutive win. Dean and Hittner combined to hit seven of the Bulldogs’ 11 3-pointers to give the team a school and MVC record 308 3-pointers this season.

Drake also added to its team single-season assists record with an additional 19 dimes on Saturday, bringing the total up to 732.

The Bulldogs shot 50 percent in the second half to overcome a slow start and created enough separation to hold off a resilient Saluki (17-14) squad. SIU was led by two freshmen with 17 points from Makenzie Silvey and 12 points from Abby Brockmeyer.

After Drake entered halftime leading just 29-26, the Saluki opened up the third quarter on a 12-4 run to take a 38-33 lead. SIU’s defense forced four Bulldog turnovers in the first six minutes, but Drake responded with seven-straight points to retake the lead. The Salukis would pull back within five in the fourth quarter but the Bulldogs held them off for the 15-point win.

Up next Drake will play in its 13th MVC championship game, looking to add to its six tournament titles with a win over state-rival Northern Iowa.

The Bulldogs and Panthers will face off for a third and final time at 2 p.m. this afternoon at the Taxslayer Center.