Big second half propels Drake into MVC title game

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Junior Kyndal Clark and freshman Lizzy Wendell both scored 20 points and the Drake women’s basketball team will get a shot at its sixth Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Tournament title after the Bulldogs rallied to beat top-seeded Indiana State on Saturday.

The Bulldogs, who also got 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds from freshman Caitlin Ingle, trailed by five at halftime but outscored the Sycamores 39-26 in the final 20 minutes and won 66-58 at The Family Arena.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the resiliency that this team had today,” said Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk. “Indiana State is a very, very good basketball team. They’re a lot stronger than us, they’re bigger than us, but today, in the second half, we came out with poise and did all the little things.”

Drake will face second-seeded Wichita State (25-6) in the championship game today. Action tips off at 2:07 p.m.

The Bulldogs overcame a 38 percent shooting night from the floor by making 11 more free throws. Drake was 18-of-25 from the line, while the Sycamores connected on 32 percent from the floor and just 7-of-15 from the line.

Clark added six boards and four assists, while Wendell was 3-of-4 from long range.

The Bulldogs (17-14) began the second half on a 10-0 run, holding Indiana State (20-11) scoreless in the first 4 minutes and forcing four Sycamore turnovers. Indiana State was just 11-of-40 from the floor in the final half.

Indiana State got within four a few times late in the game, but the Bulldogs put the game away at the line, hitting seven of their final eight from the line.

Drake was just 1-of-14 from 3-point range in the first half but made five triples in the second half.

“We’re all good shooters,” said Clark. “That’s what we do, we shoot the 3. Coach Jennie just kept saying, ‘you know, they’re going to fall.’ They can’t all not fall, when that’s what we do. That’s part of our game plan.”

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was the only Sycamore in double-figure as she scored 19 points and had six boards and four assists. Racheal Mahan also had 16 rebounds and Chelsea Smith grabbed 10 boards as Indiana State won the battle on the boards 48-42.

Drake has won five MVC tournament titles but is seeking its first since 2007. The Bulldogs are now 36-20 all-time in MVC tournament play, which is just one victory shy of Missouri State for the league lead.