Drake Spoils MVC home opener for Lady Bears

SPRINGFIELD — In a match-up between the top two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, it was the visiting Drake Bulldogs who came out on top of an 80-68 decision over the Missouri State Lady Bears Friday evening at JQH Arena.

The Lady Bears (6-8, 2-1 MVC) trailed by 22 points early in the second half, and made a late charge with an 8-for-11 shooting start to the fourth quarter, getting as close as 74-63 with 3:27 to play before Drake’s (8-7, 3-0) plus-22 rebounding margin and a handful of ill-timed whistles caught up with the home team.

Alexa Willard scored 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead four players in double figures, while Abby Hipp notched career highs of 10 points and 6 rebounds. Liza Fruendt‘s 11 points moved her past Karen Rapier for the No. 15 spot on MSU’s career scoring list, and Brice Calip added 11 points, 3 blocks and 3 steals, becoming the first Lady Bear with at least 3 blocks and 3 steals in a game since Tyonna Snow in 2016.

Missouri State never led in the game, and Drake used an 8-0 run midway through the first quarter to lead 15-7. An Elle Ruffridge 3-pointer cut the deficit to 17-14, but the Bulldogs countered with a 7-0 run to push the lead to double digits early in the second period.

The Lady Bears got no closer than 27-20 after that, with a 17-5 Bulldog run increasing the margin to 19 points before Hipp beat the halftime buzzer for a 44-27 deficit at the break.

Drake made its first four field goals of the second half to lead 53-31, and led 66-45 after three quarters before the Lady Bears mounted a comeback. Missouri State chopped the DU lead to 74-63 on a Willard jumper, and finished 10-for-16 from the floor in the final quarter, but never pulled within single digits.

Missouri State ended the game with a higher field goal percentage than Drake, .444-.435, and committed four fewer turnovers, but the Bulldogs buried 8 treys compared to 5 for MSU and made 5 more foul shots than the Lady Bears.

MSU hosts UNI (6-8, 2-1) at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Panthers lost in overtime at Southern Illinois on Friday.