Wendell leads Drake to MVC semifinals

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – A day after sharing Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honors with Evansville’s Sara Dickey, Drake’s Lizzy Wendell stood above her competition Friday.

Scoring a game-high 28 points, Wendell led the Drake women’s basketball team past Evansville, 71-61, in the quarterfinal round of the MVC Tournament at The Family Arena.

Kyndal Clark contributed 14 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Liza Heap scored 11.

The fifth-seeded Bulldogs (16-14) advance to the semifinals for the second time in three seasons to face top-seeded Indiana State today at 1:37 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest. The Sycamores won both meetings during the regular season and have won four straight in the series.

Wendell shot 9-of-18 from the field and 4-for-11 from deep, while adding four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Dickey finished with 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting and seven boards for Evansville (15-15).

“(Lizzy) continues to do big things. This is a big stage and she stepped up and made some big shots,” Clark said.

“We’re glad that she’s on our side and that we’re not playing against her. She had a great game, but you know what, she’s going to have a great game tomorrow too and that’s what we expect out of her.”

The Purple Aces trailed by nine at the break before starting the second half with a 15-5 surge to take their first lead at 50-49 since early in the game. With the game knotted at 55, Wendell buried a deep 3 and two more baskets to give the Bulldogs a 62-57 advantage with 4:45 left. Evansville used a quick timeout but never got closer than seven down the stretch as the Bulldogs closed the contest on a 16-6 run.

The Bulldogs had their biggest lead at 42-27 when Heap made a trey with 3:13 remaining in the first half, before the Purple Aces tightened the gap with an 8-2 spurt before intermission.

“We started to get a little bit too much into trying to create and we’re much better when we can pass and reverse and set each other up,” Bulldogs coach Jennie Baranczyk said.

“That’s when we’re at our very best, we have assists.”

Drake shot 10-of-21 from beyond the arc in the first half, tying their season-high for 3-pointers in a half and had 17 assists on 25 made baskets overall.

Caitlin Ingle chipped in eight points, five rebounds and five assists for the Bulldogs. Drake converted on 53 percent of its field goals in the opening 20 minutes, before making just 9-of-27 (33 percent) in the final 20. Evansville shot just 32 percent overall, but had a 39-36 rebounding advantage.

“We also didn’t shoot that well in the second half, but we didn’t have enough second chance opportunities either,” Baranczyk said.

“The rebounding part kind of continues to come back and haunt us a little bit. We need to do a better job of that.”

Kat Taylor paced Evansville with 13 points, Dakota Weatherford had 11 and Miranda Liles 10.