Women’s Basketball Falls To Wichita State In Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship Game
ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Freshman Lizzy Wendell (Blue Springs, Mo.) scored a team-high 20 points and junior Kyndal Clark (Webb City, Mo.) recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Drake University women’s basketball team fell to Wichita State, 73-49, Sunday in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship Game at The Family Arena.
Wendell and Clark played exceptionally well in the tournament as both were selected to the All-Tournament Team. Wendell averaged a tournament-leading 22.7 points over three games in St. Charles, Mo., while Clark added 16.3 points and pulled down a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game.
Junior Cara Lutes (Cottage Grove, Minn.) who owns a 3.79 cumulative grade point average in elementary education was named the MVC Elite 18 award winner. The prestigious award is given to the student-athlete in the conference championship game with the highest grade point average.
In the first half, Drake (17-15) kept the game tight as Clark’s layup pulled it within two points at 24-22 at the 8:21 mark. She was fouled on the play, but landed hard on the floor and had to leave the game. Senior Alyssa Marschner (Plymouth, Minn.) filled in on the free throw attempt, but couldn’t knock it down as Wichita State (26-6) capitalized with a 9-0 scoring run over the next three minutes.
Clark, who returned to the game a few minutes later, promptly drained a long three-pointer to stop the Shockers’ run and cut their lead to 33-25 with 5:35 left in the half. However, Wichita State outscored Drake, 12-3, to close the first half as it led 45-28 at halftime. The Shockers forced 12 first-half turnovers and scored 15 points off of the miscues.
Wendell wasted little time to start the second half as she made a jumper eight seconds in, but the Bulldogs couldn’t get the scoring run they needed as the Shockers would lead by as many as 26 points. Wichita State won its second consecutive MVC tournament title and claimed The Valley’s automatic berth to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“Nobody wants to end their season on a loss, but most teams do,” said head coach Jennie Baranczyk. “The thing we are going to take out of this is we are not that far off and we have grown so much this year. I’m so proud of the women today who wore their Drake uniforms. We had some moments today that we didn’t like and some moments we did like, but we are going to continue to grow and get better.”
No. 5 Drake collected an opening-round victory over fourth-seeded Evansville and then upset top-seeded Indiana State to advance to the championship tilt versus No. 2 Wichita State.
“I think this tournament proves that our program is going in the direction we want it to,” commented Baranczyk. “We had a pretty tough road to get here today in beating two of the hottest teams in the league in Evansville and Indiana State.”
Drake and Wichita State previously played for the MVC title in 1997 as the top-seeded Bulldogs beat the seventh-seeded Shockers, 78-59, in Springfield, Mo. to claim their second league tournament title. The Bulldogs have six MVC Tournament runner-up finishes.
Wendell’s 68 points this weekend is the sixth best individual scoring performance in MVC Tournament history. Wendell has scored 536 points in her debut season as she is the first Drake freshman to score 500 or more points their first season since Kay Riek accomplished the feat in 1980-81. Only Jackie Stiles, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history, had more points (618) as a MVC freshman.
Clark’s double-double is the second of her career. Sophomore Emma Donahue (Naperville, Ill.) had four points off the bench for the Bulldogs.
“Kyndal (Clark) is a very special player who earned everything she received this year,” said Baranczyk. “She is one of the main reasons we are here. Her confidence and poise has trickled down to the rest of this team. Lizzy (Wendell) is going to be a very special player. The way she played in this tournament was pretty amazing for anyone, let alone a freshman.”