The Drake University women’s basketball team saw its 21-game winning streak come to an end with an 89-76 loss at Texas A&M in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday afternoon at Reed Arena. The 13th-seeded Bulldogs’ second-straight NCAA appearance was cut short by a strong second quarter from No. 4 Texas A&M and two Aggies in double-figure scoring.
Junior Sara Rhine (Eldon, Mo.) was nearly perfect for Drake (26-8) with 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting with 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. Becca Hittner (Urbandale, Iowa), the reigning Jackie Stiles Missouri Valley Conference Player of Year, added 19 points while Brenni Rose (Shawnee, Kan.) had 10 points. Sammie Bachrodt (Wichita, Kan.) had a career-high 10 assists, the most ever by a Bulldog in an NCAA Tournament game.
Drake, which came into the game leading the nation in assists, had a staggering 29 assists to tie for the 16th-most ever in an NCAA Women’s Tournament game.
Texas A&M (25-9) was led by 26 points from the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, Chennedy Carter. Khaalia Hillsman added 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Seventeen of the pair’s points came in the second half as the Aggies outscored the Bulldogs 31-14 to take control of the game.
The Bulldogs outscored the Aggies, 62-58, in the other three quarters of action but could not overcome a second quarter in which they were held to 35.3 percent shooting despite converting on 53.2 percent of their shots overall, the team’s fifth-best percentage ever in an NCAA Tournament game.
The Bulldogs came out firing to start the game and had a 28-26 lead at the end of the first quarter. Rhine and Hittner scored 21 of those points as Rhine was 5-of-5 from the floor while Hittner made a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter. Five of Rhine’s points came during a 30-second span in which she erased a four-point deficit to give the Bulldogs a lead with a three-point play and jumper in the lane.
Hittner and Rhine helped the Bulldogs shoot 12-of-17 in the first quarter, but that shooting cooled in the second period as Drake made just one of its first seven shots and committed three turnovers in the first 4:24 of the second quarter to allow the Aggies to score 13-straight points and take a 41-30 lead. Carter and Hillsman scored nine points during that run to give the Aggies a 13-point cushion. Carter would score 19 of her points in the first half along with eight rebounds.
The Bulldogs responded to trim the deficit to eight points with three minutes remaining in the half, but a Carter three-pointer keyed a 9-2 Aggie run to close the half and take a 57-42 lead into the halftime break. Hittner finished the half with 14 points for the Bulldogs.
However, Drake held serve in the third quarter and began to chip away at the deficit with a 10-2 spurt drawing the Bulldogs within nine points, 72-69, with 3:01 left in the period. Rhine and Dean scored all 10 points with Maddy Dean (Jordan, Minn.) connecting on back-to-back three-pointers to put the brakes on Texas A&M’s momentum. Dean finished with eight points and eight assists.
Drake remained within striking distance for the final 13 minutes of the game but could not erode Texas A&M’s lead any further. A Dean jumper with 2:58 left in the game pulled the Bulldogs back within nine points, 85-76, but the Bulldogs could get no closer to erasing the deficit in the program’s 12th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance.
The loss ends another historic season for the Drake women’s basketball team in which it won its second-straight Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles with the program’s second-consecutive 18-0 record in MVC action. The Bulldogs are slated to return all but one student-athlete to the roster next season in defense of their back-to-back conference titles.