Willard, Missouri State women top No. 21 Drake for MVC title
MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — Alexa Willard scored a career-high 30 points and second-seeded Missouri State ended No. 21 Drake’s 12-game winning streak with a 94-79 victory in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Sunday for the Bears’ 15th NCAA Tournament berth.
Sydney Manning added 14 points, Brice Calip 13 and Danielle Gitzen 12 for the Bears (23-10), whose last win over a ranked team was against No. 5 Duke in the 2001 Sweet 16. It is the 11th MVC tournament title for Missouri State, the most recent coming in 2016.
The Bulldogs (27-6) had won 12 straight since an 85-79 home loss to the Bears on February 1 and were 61-1 against league opponents coming into their third-straight title game.
Drake made 6 of 11 3-pointers in the first quarter and led 22-21 but the Bears took a 42-35 lead at the half as Willard and Manning both scored 10 points. Sammie Bachrodt was 4 of 4 from distance for 12 points for the Bulldogs, who were 9 of 16 behind the arc.
Willard took over in the third quarter, scoring 15 points as the Bears outscored Drake 26-12. He hit a 3-pointer to open the second half and the teams traded baskets until midway through the quarter when two Willard free throws started a closing 15-2 run. Manning and Gitzen followed the free throws with 3-pointers and after a Drake basket, Willard scored seven points in the last two minutes to make it 68-47.
The Bulldogs scored the first nine points of the fourth but never got closer than nine as Missouri State went 17 of 22 from the foul line, most coming in the last three minutes.
The Bears were 24 of 33 from the foul line and turned 24 Drake turnovers into 25 points en route to the highest offensive output against the Bulldogs this season.
Bachrodt led Drake with 18 points, MVC player of the year Becca Hittner had 16 and Sara Rhine 14.