Bulldogs surge past Lady Bears in MVC opener

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The Drake women’s basketball team didn’t have much working for them in the first half of their first-round Missouri Valley tournament game against Missouri State.

The Bulldogs shot just 34 percent from the field and hit just two of their 10 3-point attempts.

Luckily, there are two halves with every basketball game and the Bulldogs took full advantage with a big second half during an 81-66 rally over Missouri State at Family Arena on Thursday.

Ninth-seeded Drake (11-19) trailed by five at the break but outscored the eighth-seeded Bears 47-27 in the second half and connected on seven treys to win going away.

“We’ve played them twice already this year and they were close games,” Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “We knew we would get another close game today.”

Missouri State dominated the paint but shot less than 40 percent from the floor and hit just five 3-pointers in the game in the loss.

Sophomore Kyndal Clark buried three triples and finished with a game-high 17 points, six rebounds and four steals, while Ashley Bartow (16), Morgan Reid (15) and Mary Pat Specht (12) also finished in double-figures for the Bulldogs, who will next play No. 1 seeded Wichita State at 12:07 p.m. today.

Clark fueled the second-half comeback with 15 of her 17 points coming in the final 20 minutes. The Bulldogs used a 7-0 run during a two-minute stretch in the second half that gave them a lead they would not relinquish.

Specht knocked down a 3-pointer during that run to give Drake a much-needed boost at the offensive end.

“My shot was feeling good tonight,” Specht said. “I just credit my teammates for finding me. They found me in transition, and Alyssa Marschner gave me two big assists.”

Clark’s 3 with 1:58 to play pushed Drake’s lead to nine. The Bulldogs shot 51 percent in the second half.

Specht’s 12 points helped the Bulldogs’ bench outscore Missouri State 24-17. Emma Donahue also scored a career-high eight points as well.

“Something we told her before she went into the game, if you have an open shot you take,” Baranczyk said. “Do not miss taking an open shot tonight. That’s exactly what we need her to do.”

Donahue played one of her best games as a Bulldog. She made 4-of-6 from the floor and had three blocks.

“My shot has been on recently,” Donahue said. “It was great to see that my team was finding me. I’m just starting to figure out where I fit in this offense. It’s exciting to start understanding where I should be.”