DES MOINES, Iowa– Just like the first meeting of the season, Drake made a comeback late in the game to take a nine-point lead, but Illinois State didn’t have another miraculous run left. The Bulldogs (18-9, 11-5 MVC) beat the Redbirds (22-5, 12-4 MVC), 72-66, at the Knapp Center on Sunday, March 2. Drake used a 28-11 run in the second half to turn an eight-point deficit into a nine-point lead. ISU has lost two-consecutive games for just the second time this season and is now in second place in the Valley, a full game behind Evansville for the first time this year.
Junior guard Kristi Cirone led the Redbirds in scoring for the 12th time this season with 19 points and had five rebounds and three steals. Sophomore forward Ashleen Bracey scored 14 points and had a team-best eight rebounds. Freshman guard Shala Jackson added 10 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Sophomore center Nicolle Lewis contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
For the second-consecutive game, ISU was outrebounded, losing the battle of the boards 44-34 to Drake. The Bulldogs had 16 offensive rebounds in the game. The Redbirds shot just 37.8 percent (14-for-37) in the second half and had a season-low 10 assists in the game.
Drake was led by guard Lindsay Whorton’s 23 points and forward Jill Martin recorded her second double-double of the season against the ‘Birds with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“Earlier in the season, it thought that rebounding was one of our strengths and in the past few games it has really hurt us,” said head coach Robin Pingeton. “We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a fight down low and you have to give Drake a lot of credit for being active on the offensive glass. We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well today, especially in the second half, and didn’t get to the free throw line as much as we wanted to.”
Illinois State wasted no time taking a lead, scoring on its first two possessions to jump ahead, 5-0. The Redbirds maintained that five-point edge throughout the first half, answering any Drake basket with one of their own. Senior guard Tiffany Hudson made a jump shot from just inside the three-point arc to put ISU on top, 15-9, with 12:32 remaining in the half. Cirone scored seven points and Bracey added four in the early going. Drake was just 3-for-11 from the field to start the contest, with forward Monique’ Jones making all three field goals.
ISU then went scoreless for nearly four minutes, allowing Drake to pull within two, 15-13, with a pair of free throws and a Marin jumper, her first field goal of the game. Jumpers by Krick and Cirone on consecutive possessions extended the ISU lead back to six points at 8:12.
Drake cut the deficit down to one point, 21-20, with a 7-2 run, but Cirone hit a three-pointer from the left wing to keep the Bulldogs from taking the lead. Illinois State stayed ahead of Drake by outscoring the Bulldogs 9-8 the rest of the half. Lewis was fouled as she made a jumper in the lane and after two lane violations against Drake during which she missed the free throw, Lewis completed the three-point play to put the ‘Birds ahead, 31-25.
A jumper by Bracey at 18:15 in the second half gave ISU its biggest lead, 38-30. Drake answered with a 14-4 run over the next five minutes to take the lead for the first time, 44-42. Forward Kelsey Keizer started the Bulldog run with a pair of layups and Martin had jumpers in the lane on consecutive possessions.
Cirone tied the game with a jumper and after Whorton made Drake’s first three-pointer of the game, came back down the floor and nailed a three of her own to tie the game once again, 47-47. Drake then went on an 11-2 run over the next six minutes to take its biggest lead of the game, 58-49, with 4:24 on the clock.
Bracey scored a layup to stop a Redbird scoring drought of nearly four minutes Redbirds and Jackson stole the inbounds pass and was fouled, making the first free throw, to cut the deficit down to six points with three minutes left. ISU would get no closer than four points the rest of the way as Drake closed out the game with an 11-for-14 performance from the free throw line. Bracey and Jackson combined for 16 of ISU’s final 17 points.
Illinois State hosts Southern Illinois (8-18, 4-12 MVC) on Thursday, March 6, at 7:05 p.m.