MANHATTAN, Kan. – The No. 20/18 Drake University women's basketball team's historic season came to a close Saturday afternoon with a 67-54 loss at No. 24/RV Kansas State in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament. The loss snapped the Bulldogs' program and MVC record 22-game win streak and was the team's first loss since Dec. 21, 2016.
The Bulldogs, who entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed, finished the season with a 28-5 overall record after cruising to the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament title with an 18-0 league record. The 28 victories this season ties the all-time mark single season total in program history with the 1978-79 and 1981-82 teams.
"It was not how we wanted the game to go but what an incredible environment," said head coach Jennie Baranczyk. "I thought there were a lot of Kansas State fans today and we also brought our fans with us so I thought that was great. For a First-Round Tournament, that is huge to be able to have that. We will get into reflective moments at some point because every time I start to go there, tears start to come. I am really proud of our team and I am really proud of our senior class for taking us on this amazing journey this season. I wish that we could have done a little bit more today. At the same time, I thought Kansas State did a great job. We are still going to continue to learn, grow, and get better. The best is still coming but the legacy that the senior class has left has been phenomenal."
Senior Lizzy Wendell (Blue Spring, Mo.) led Drake with 17 points, four assists and four steals to finish her legendary career with 2,551 points, third all-time at Drake and in the MVC. Senior Caitlin Ingle (Runnells, Iowa) had seven assists, four points and two steals in her final game. The point guard leaves an incredible legacy as the all-time assists leader at Drake and in the MVC with 786 assists. Off the bench, Cortni Rush (Mason City, Iowa) scored eight points, including hitting two three-pointers, in her final game.
"I could not ask for a better college career here at Drake," said Wendell. "Choosing Drake was the best thing I could have done for the last four years here. Being able to build it up and end on a season like this with people that are so fun to be around is really special. It makes everything worth it. Today is not how we wanted to go out but being able to reflect and look back on the season is pretty amazing. I could not ask for a better season and a better senior year."
Freshman Becca Hittner (Urbandale, Iowa) and sophomore Sammie Bachrodt (Wichita, Kan.) added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Kansas State (23-10) was paced by Breanna Lewis' 23 points and 11 rebounds while Kindred Wesemann added 16 points and five assists.
Kansas State held a five-point, 30-25, lead at halftime that Drake was unable to overcome in the second half as the Wildcats held Drake to 4-of-16 shooting and an 0-of-7 performance from the three-point arc in the third quarter. The Bulldogs shot 36.5 percent in the game and were 7-of-24 from the three-point arc while Kansas State converted at a 47.3 percent clip, thanks in part to Lewis shooting 11-of-17.
The Bulldogs pulled within three points twice in the third quarter, but Kansas State answered both times and outscored Drake, 9-4, over the final six minutes of the period to lead 43-35.
The Wildcats stretched that to 11 points, 48-37, in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, but minutes later a three-pointer from Rush pulled Drake back within eight points, 50-42, with 7:18 left. The senior matched a season high with eight points in the contest. Two minutes later, Wendell would connect from the arc to keep Drake within striking distance and a final three-pointer from Hittner with 3:36 left kept the deficit at seven points, 59-52.
Kansas State countered Drake's final charge with eight-straight points to dash the Bulldogs' comeback hopes and advance to the second round of the tournament against Stanford.
K-State scored the first points of the game, but Bachrodt answered with back-to-back three-pointers to take an early 6-2 lead. The Wildcats would later lead by nine points late in the quarter, but Ingle hit a cutting Bachrodt for a layup at the end of the first to pull the Bulldogs to within 20-13 after one quarter. Bachrodt led all scorers with eight points in the opening quarter.
A 7-2 scoring run by Drake pulled them to within two points at 22-20 after a layup by Hittner early. Each team buckled down on defense as K-State had the halftime lead. The teams traded three-pointers for the final points of the half as Wesemann made a three for the Wildcats that was quickly answered by Wendell. Bachrodt and Wendell paced the Bulldogs with eight points each in the opening half.