Drake takes another bite
Bulldogs beat UNI, repeat as MVC champs
MOLINE, Ill. — Apparently it doesn’t matter who is in the game for Drake, the result is the same.
Nicole Miller, Sara Rhine and Maddy Dean — all reserves — each scored in double figures and the top-seeded Drake women’s basketball team won its second-straight Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and NCAA berth on Sunday with a 75-63 win over third-seeded Northern Iowa.
Miller and Rhine scored 12 points apiece and Dean and starter Becca Jonas added 10 as the Bulldogs (26-7) won their 21st-straight game, their seventh MVC tournament and earned their 12th trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m really proud of the growth this team has had from the beginning of the year to where we’re at right now,” said Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk. “We’re a better team and we’re a deep team, and we’re a deep team not just because of talent but because these guys really believe in each other and their chemistry is unmatched.”
Dean was named tournament MVP after shooting 10-of-21 from 3-point range and averaging 17 points in three tournament wins. She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Rhine and Becca Hittner, the regular-season MVP who had nine points and six rebounds in the title game.
So for the second straight year Drake (26-7) rolled through the regular season and conference tournament without a loss — and for good measure knocked off Northern Iowa in the title game — though not with the dramatics of last year’s 74-69 overtime triumph.
No player scored in double figures for the Panthers (19-13), who had won six straight.
Miller’s 3-pointer highlighted a game-opening 7-0 run and Drake led 20-12 after one quarter, hitting four 3-pointers. Northern Iowa crawled back within one late in the second quarter but Hannah Fuller and Dean hit 3s 23 seconds part to make it 43-36 at the half.
Northern Iowa, which has now lost six straight to Drake, took its only lead midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer and 3-point play from Kennedy Kirkpatrick in an 11-1 run. But almost as soon as Taylor Hagen’s jumper put the Panthers on top 49-48, Miller’s layup and Paige Greiner’s 3-point play started a 12-2 run for the Bulldogs.
“I think there’s really good teams in our league … and we’ve been battle-tested,” Baranczyk said. “We know we really can rely on our depth and that’s really where we hope in that second half and fourth quarter is where our depth comes out. It’s not always in the point column — sometimes it is — but a lot of it is to be able to run the tempo that we want to run.”
Mikaela Morgan’s trey pulled the Panthers within four barely a minute into the fourth quarter and a Megan Maahs basket 90 seconds later made it 64-61. But Jonas hit a jumper, Miller followed with a 3 and an 8-0 burst made it 72-61 with 3:22 left.
The Maahs bucket was the Panthers’ last as they missed their final 10 shot attempts. They ended up shooting 33 percent for the game. Maahs, a sophomore who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, and teammate Ellie Howell made the all-tournament team.
“For this young team to get back to this game is a credit to these young women and them staying true to the process,” said UNI head coach Tanya Warren. “The state should be extremely proud for both programs to get back to this game back-to-back seasons because it says a lot about what both programs are doing. We have a lot of respect for them and I know they have a lot of respect for us.”
Drake shot 43 percent and its nine 3s pushed their school and MVC record total to 318 and the 17 assists extended the school record to 749.
The Bulldogs got scoring from all 10 players who entered the game.
“I think that’s the key to our success,” said Dean. “We have 10 players who are very talented on our team and whether we get the credit for it or not, we all have a part in it and that’s what’s really special about our level of togetherness right now and that’s what we rely on to win games like this.”
Drake will host an NCAA Tournament Selection Show watch party tonight at its practice facility, while Northern Iowa awaits its fate for postseason play as the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) announces its field of 64 tonight at 8 p.m.
At Moline, Ill.
N. IOWA (19-13) — Maahs 4-7 0-0 8, Howell 2-12 0-0 6, Simon-Ressler 3-7 2-2 9, Kirkpatrick 2-10 1-1 6, Morgan 3-8 1-2 9, Rucker 0-3 2-2 2, Kroeger 3-7 0-0 8, Gunnels 0-0 0-0 0, Wheatcraft 0-0 0-0 0, Hillyard 1-2 0-0 3, Hagen 2-5 2-2 6, Gerrits 2-6 0-0 6. TOTALS 22-67 8-9 63.
DRAKE (26-7) — Rose 2-8 0-0 4, Jonas 5-8 0-1 10, Monahan 0-3 2-2 2, Hittner 2-6 5-8 9, Bachrodt 2-6 1-2 7, Greiner 2-4 1-1 6, Dean 4-9 0-0 19, Fuller 1-1 0-0 3, Miller 3-5 4-4 12, Rhine 4-8 3-4 12. TOTALS 25-58 16-22 75.
N. IOWA 12 24 20 7 — 63
DRAKE 20 23 19 13 — 75
3-Point Goals–UNI 11-30 (Gerrits 2-3, Howell 2-5, Kroeger 2-5, Morgan 2-6, Hillyard 1-1, Simon-Ressler 1-3, Kirkpatrick 1-6, Rucker 0-1), Drake 9-22 (Miller 2-3, Bachrodt 2-4, Dean 2-5, Fuller 1-1, Rhine 1-1, Monahan 0-2, Rose 0-3). Rebounds–UNI 39 (Maahs 11), Drake 42 (Rhine 7). Assists–UNI 16 (Kirkpatrick 6), Drake 17 (Dean 5). Total Fouls–UNI 20, Drake 16. Fouled Out–none. A–2,169.