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Women's Basketball Holds Off Evansville To Advance To 2014 MVC Tournament Semifinals

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
         
Release: March 14, 2014
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The Drake University women’s basketball team held off Evansville, 71-61, on Friday afternoon to advance to the semifinals of the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at The Family Arena. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs will face top seed Indiana State on Saturday at 1:37 p.m. and the contest will be broadcast on FOX Sports Midwest.

Drake (16-14) freshman Lizzy Wendell (Blue Springs, Mo.) led all scorers with 28 points. Wendell, who last night was named Co-MVC Freshman of the Year with Evansville’s Sara Dickey, added four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 36 minutes. Junior Kyndal Clark (Webb City, Mo.), the 2014 Jackie Stiles MVC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, played all 40 minutes Friday and finished with 14 points, nine boards, five assists and two steals. Junior Liza Heap (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) was other Bulldog in double-digits with 11 points.

Evansville (15-15), who trailed 44-35 at the halftime break, opened the second half with a 15-5 scoring run to take its first lead at 50-49 since early in the game. Drake battled cold shooting the first 10 minutes, making just one of its first 12 shots, including just one of nine from behind the three-point line.

The Bulldogs turned to sophomore center Emma Donahue (Naperville, Ill.) off the bench, who made her first appearance of the day, and promptly made back-to-back jumpers to tie the game at 53-53 with nine minutes remaining in the game.

After the two teams traded points and the score was 55-all, it was Wendell who stepped up as she connected on a deep three-pointer from the right baseline and added two consecutive baskets to push Drake ahead 62-57 with 4:45 in the game as Evansville quickly called a timeout. The timeout couldn’t slow the Bulldogs’ momentum as they held off the fourth-seeded Purple Aces to advance to the tournament semifinals for the second time in three seasons.

Balanced scoring and prolific shooting from long-range, helped Drake hold the halftime lead, as all five starters scored four or more points. Clark and Wendell, who earlier in the week were named to the All-MVC first team, had 12 points apiece to lead all scorers.

Heap drilled three three-pointers in the opening half, which is just one away from her career mark. Her final three with 3:13 left in the half gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of 15 points, but Evansville used an 8-2 scoring run to close out the half to get back within single digits at the break.

Drake finished 10-of-21 from beyond the arc in the first half, which equals its season-high for most three-pointers in a half. The Bulldogs had 10 against Bradley on Jan. 26 on their way to a school-record 17, and had 10 at Evansville on Feb. 6.

Kat Taylor paced four Evansville players in double-figures with 13 points, while Dickey, Dakota Weatherford and Miranda Liles had 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively. The Purple Aces dealt with their own shooting woes after Dickey’s three-pointer extended the lead to 53-49. Evansville didn’t have another field goal until over seven minutes later when Weatherford’s jumper fell to trim Drake’s lead to 58-57. Drake clamped down on defense again as Evansville scored just four more points in the last 5:37 of the game.

Six three-pointers propelled Drake to an early 20-12 lead as Evansville was forced to use its first timeout of the afternoon with 12:44 on the clock.

Indiana State took both games versus Drake in the regular season, and has won four-straight in the series.

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