Drake women drop OT heartbreaker
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — Just moments after the worst foul of her career, Drake’s Becca Hittner got her chance for redemption.
Hittner’s wide-open jumper as time expired instead clanked off the back of the rim, a cruel reminder that for every March buzzer-beater there’s a potential game winner that ends in anguish.
Jordan Roundtree hit a free throw after being fouled with 1.1 seconds left in overtime and seventh-seeded Missouri held off Drake 77-76 on Friday to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32 for the third time in four years.
“March is March,” Robin Pingeton said.
Sophie Cunningham scored 21 points and Cierra Porter had 18 for the Tigers (24-10), who can advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001 with a win over second-seeded and host Iowa on Sunday.
The Tigers found Amber Smith open underneath for a 76-74 lead on a jumper with 20.8 seconds left, but Maddy Dean pulled Drake even at the line
Hittner then hit Roundtree’s shooting hand while she was attempting a desperation 3 after Missouri got caught trying to drain the clock. Roundtree missed the first free throw, hit the second and missed the third.
Had Hittner not committed that foul, Missouri would’ve been forced to go to a second overtime without Cunningham or Porter — both of whom had fouled out.
“The refs called it,” Hittner said. “I still got a good look at the end.”
It was a great look, in fact.
Drake got the rebound after Roundtree’s last miss and after two timeouts, miraculously got Hittner — a 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc — a wide-open look at the top of the key.
It bounced off the back of the iron.
“It looked good,” Cunningham said of Hittner’s shot. “Thankfully she missed it.”
Drake and Missouri each hit their first two 3s to start overtime, but Hittner’s 3 with 1:38 left gave the Bulldogs a 73-72 lead. Cunningham’s free throws put Missouri back on top with 53 seconds to go, but Drake’s Sara Rhine tied it the next time down the floor.
Hittner had 19 and Rhine chipped in with 18 points for Drake (27-7), which bowed out of the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row.
“This one is really painful,” Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “This is a tough one. It’s a really tough one.”
THE BIG PICTURE
MISSOURI: Cunningham, Porter and fellow senior starter Lauren Aldridge will get one more chance to advance in the NCAA Tournament against an Iowa team that played one of its worst games of the season on Friday. Missouri shouldn’t expect the Hawkeyes to repeat such a dreadful performance though. “I love these kids to death,” Cunningham said of her senior trio.
DRAKE: The Bulldogs were given an at-large bid after getting upset by Missouri State in the Valley final. They can argue about being under-seeded despite being ranked 21st before that defeat, but at some point Drake has to come through and win an NCAA Tournament game. The Bulldogs were within an inch of doing so at the overtime buzzer though.
The game was tied 14 times and the lead changed hands 12 times. …The teams combined for 35 turnovers. …Drake was 12 of 26 on 3s. Hittner led the way, hitting 4 of 8 attempts beyond the arc. …Missouri made the most of its offensive rebounds, outscoring Drake by 10 on second-chance points.
SHE SAID IT
“Are you guys stressed out too?” Cunningham joked to open the post-game press conference