ST. CHARLES, MO. —
For 15 minutes, Indiana State played as well as the coaching staff could expect against a high-powered Drake offense, building a 29-18 lead.
For 15 minutes, the Sycamores held the Missouri Valley Conference’s best 3-point shooting team without a 3-pointer.
But the same Sycamore team that outworked Loyola on Friday did not show up and finish the job Saturday. The top-seeded Sycamores lost 66-58 to the No. 5 Bulldogs in the MVC Tournament semifinals.
Freshman Lizzy Wendell connected for Drake’s first 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 10 seconds before the half to key a 9-1 run and Indiana State did not bounce back to start the second half either.
“We looked like we got punched and were staggering a little bit,” ISU coach Teri Moren said. “We didn’t respond with the sense of urgency I would have liked to have seen our kids.”
Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk’s young squad played with poise. The Bulldogs didn’t let the Sycamores’ big start rattle them.
“We regained our composure,” she said. “They had their way with us at the beginning. [The Sycamores] didn’t knock down the shots they wanted to, but they took us off our game.”
The ISU team that had three 50-percent shooting games during a seven-game winning streak was also nowhere to be found.
Then Anna Munn went down in pain.
Munn went to the locker room with an elbow injury in the opening minutes of the second half, and trainers determined she could not return.
“From what I can understand, I’m not sure which of Drake’s players landed on her elbow, hyper extended it,” Moren said. “The range of motion was not good enough to return. She’s our glue player. It’s a big blow, but we didn’t feel like all was lost. We still feel very confident in our bench play.”
Chelsea Small tossed in some big shots, but ISU’s wing players couldn’t find the touch.
Jasmine Grier closed the regular season red hot, hitting 16 of 28 from beyond the arc in the last five games. The junior transfer went 1 of 9 from long range Saturday — and 2 of 14 overall — after going 2 for 10 overall Friday.
ISU shot 32 percent Saturday, but it was the lack of post production that was most disturbing against a Drake team that starts five perimeter players.
“Indiana State is a very, very good basketball. They’re a lot stronger than us, they’re bigger than us,” Baranczyk said.
Drake’s zone defense kept the ball out of Marina Laramie and Racheal Mahan’s hands and the Bulldogs contested shots well when ISU’s forwards did get it. The Sycamore duo combined to go 6 of 15 from the field.
“It’s just a day that Jas [Grier] couldn’t get her shot to fall, all of our guards,” Moren said. “We settled a little bit. The advantage was on the inside; we didn’t take advantage of it. That’s not enough post touches for Red and Racheal. That’s my fault that we didn’t do a better job helping our kids understand when and where the ball needed to be.”
Laramie was working hard to get position but the Sycamores were unable to create the passing lanes.
“They were in that zone and did a good job of guarding the pass coming into us. We did get some shots up but they just didn’t fall for us,” Laramie said.
Abdul-Qaadir finished with 19 points and four assists.
“I just tried to drive as much as I could. It’s just tough. We tried to get it to our posts, it’s just disappointing,” Abdul-Qaadir said.
ISU’s poor offensive execution led to bad transition defense at the worst times.
ISU regained its defensive form to rally to a 39-39 tie, but ISU left Wendell wide open in the corner for a pair of 3-pointers before the defense got set.
Jackie Stiles Player of the Year Kyndal Clark added one to bury ISU into a nine-point deficit with 10:17 to go.
“We’re all good shooters, that’s what we do, we shoot the 3,” Clark said. “If you miss a couple, one’s got to eventually fall.”
It didn’t seem that way in the first half.
Grier and Abdul-Qaadir led a stout defensive effort in the first half that held Drake to 1-of-14 shooting from long range. Clark, who leads the NCAA with an average of 3.9 3-pointers made per game, had two points at halftime.
Abdul-Qaadir made plays down the stretch to pull the Sycamores within four three different times in the final minutes, but Drake hit enough foul shots to secure the win.
Mahan collected 16 rebounds to give her 33 for the MVC Tournament. Her average of 16.5 per game is the best in MVC Tournament history, tying Wanda Ford of Drake in 1983.
DRAKE (66) — Bartow 0-4 0-0 0, Wendell 7-12 3-4 20, Clark 6-15 6-7 20, Heap 2-8 0-0 4, Ingle 4-10 2-3 10, Grenfell 1-5 3-4 6, Donahue 1-1 0-1 2, Marschner 0-0 4-6 4. Totals 21-55 FG, 18-25 FT, 66 TP.
INDIANA STATE (58) — Laramie 3-8 1-2 7, Grier 2-14 0-2 5, Mahan 3-7 1-5 7, Abdul-Qaadir 7-20 3-4 19, Munn 2-9 0-0 5, Zurek 2-2 0-0 4, Small 3-6 0-0 3, Wittman 1-5 2-2 5, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Franklin 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-71 FG, 7-15 FT, 58 TP.
Halftime score — ISU 32, Drake 27. 3-point shooting — DU 6-27 (Wendell 3-4, Clark 2-9, Grenfell 1-5, Bartow 0-3, Heap 0-3, Ingle 0-3), ISU 5-25 (Abdul-Qaadir 2-5, Wittman 1-4, Munn 1-6, Grier 1-9, Small 0-1). Rebounds — DU 42 (Grenfell 7), ISU 48 (Mahan 16, Small 10). Steals — DU 11 (Grenfell 3), ISU 7 (Small, Grier, Mahan, Abdul-Qaadir, Munn, Zurek). Assists — DU 15 (Ingle 7), ISU 7 (Abdul-Qaadir 4). Turnovers — DU 15, ISU 17. Blocks — DU 2, ISU 4 (Small 3, Laramie). Total fouls — DU 17, ISU 19.
Next — Indiana State (20-11) will play later this week in the WNIT at a site and date to be determined. Drake (17-14) plays Wichita State today in the MVC Tournament championship game.