Led by a career-high 22 points and seven assists from senior Caitlin Ingle (Runnells, Iowa), the No. 20/19 Drake University women’s basketball team won its sixth Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title with a 74-69 overtime win over UNI at the iWireless Center.
With the MVC Tournament title, the Bulldogs earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will be making the 11th tournament appearance in the program’s history.
Ingle, who was named the tournament MVP, forced the overtime period with a jumper as time expired in regulation to tie the game at 63-63. In the overtime period, Ingle helped give the Bulldogs an early cushion with a three-point play followed by a jumper to help the team take a 71-66 lead less than three minutes into overtime.
Drake’s (defense held UNI to just three points the remainder of the overtime period and a pair of free throws from Lizzy Wendell (Blue Springs, Mo.) with 18 seconds left sealed the victory. Wendell finished the game with 13 points to earn a spot on the MVC All-Tournament team.
The overtime win completed a historic season for the Bulldogs as the team blitzed through the MVC with a perfect 18-0 record and added three more wins against MVC competition this weekend. The Bulldogs have now won 22-straight games, the second longest active winning streak in the nation.
Drake, as it had in its first two tournament games, faced first-half deficit as UNI held a 39-29 lead at halftime. But true to form, the Bulldogs stormed back in the third period, outscoring UNI 19-11, in the period to trim the deficit to two points, 50-48.
MVC Freshman of the Year Becca Hittner (Urbandale, Iowa) keyed that comeback with a three-pointer to open the period as part of a 10-2 run. Hittner finished the game with 15 points and was a perfect 3-of-3 from the three-point arc. Redshirt sophomore Becca Jonas (Independence, Mo.) recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Jonas knocked down a career-high two three-pointers, including one at the start of OT to answer UNI’s three-pointer to start extra time.
The fourth quarter saw three ties and eight lead changes with neither team leading by more than two points through 10 minutes of nail-biting action. A three-pointer from Hittner gave Drake an early lead, but a pair of three-pointers from UNI in the final 3:33 kept the Bulldogs from pulling away. UNI’s Ellie Herzberg, who finished with 25 points, drained the last of those three-pointers with six seconds left to give UNI a 63-61 lead. However, Ingle responded with her step-back jumper at the top of the lane as time expired to force overtime and propel the Bulldogs to the MVC Tournament title in front of a tournament record crowd of 2,451.
The Bulldogs will discover their NCAA Tournament opponent and location on Monday, March 13, when the NCAA Tournament field is revealed at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Fans are invited to join the Bulldogs for a Selection Show Watch Party in the Courtside Club of the Shivers Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.