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Women’s basketball team to face Illinois tonight in WNIT second round

Photo of Lindsay Whorton
Lindsay Whorton

On the heels of its first postseason tournament victory in six seasons, Drake continues action in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament as the Bulldogs travel to face the University of Illinois.

Game time in Assembly Hall is set for 7 p.m. with KRNT (1350 AM) carrying the radio broadcast beginning with the pregame show at 6:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs will be meeting Illinois for only the sixth time. The game marks the first encounter since the Fighting Illini bettered Drake in the first round of the 1997 NCAA Tournament, 79-62. The Bulldogs are 2-1 at home in the series, while dropping both their contests in Champaign. The two victories have come by an average of 16.0 points, while the team has fallen by an average margin of 15.3 in its three setbacks.

Illinois comes into its WNIT opener on the heels of a 15-day layoff following a 58-56 setback to Purdue in the title game of the Big Ten Tournament on March 9. Sophomore Jenna Smith averages team highs in scoring (18.7) and rebounding (9.6). The Fighting Illini lead the Big Ten in scoring defense (57.2), free throw percentage (.773) and rebounding defense (32.9) and record 62.6 points, while limiting the opposition to conference-low 57.2 points.

A victory over Illinois will send Drake to a third-round date with the winner of the Creighton/Marquette game later this week, while a loss will close out the Bulldogs’ season.

Seniors spark comeback victory over Green Bay

Drake advances to the second round after seniors Lindsay Whorton and Jill Martin sparked a 65-56 comeback victory over Green Bay in the first round of the Women’s NIT on Saturday, March 22.

In a game featuring big scoring streaks by both teams, it was the Bulldogs that survived a nine-minute six-second stretch midway through the affair in which they missed 15 of 16 attempts to prevail with the final run of the game. After the Phoenix took a 45-36 lead with 12:44 to go in the game, Drake rattled off  24 of the game’s next 30 points to own a 60-51 lead with under two minutes to play. Fueling the surge with six points apiece were Whorton and junior Kelsey Keizer.

Whorton capped a 9-0 run in that span that gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half connecting on a three-pointer with 7:21 remaining. Green Bay regained the lead on a jumper by Lavesa Glover but it proved to be short lived as Keizer put Drake ahead for good on a lay-up at the 6:07 mark.

Sophomore Jordann Plummer gave Drake its biggest margin in the contest, 60-51, hitting a pair of free throws with 1:59 left.

Glover broke the Bulldogs’ run with a jumper and Celeste Hoewisch converted a lay-up to cut the deficit to five points, 60-55.

Drake sealed its first postseason victory since downing Baylor, 76-72, on March 17, 2002, in the NCAA Tournament, with a pair of made free throws from Whorton, Plummer and one off the hands of sophomore Monique Jones.

Whorton paced the Bulldogs with an 18-point effort, with all of her points coming off 3-pointers, as she shot 45.5 percent (5-of-11) beyond the arc.

Martin finished with 15 points, while snatching a game- and career-high 16 rebounds to post her 41st career double-double, including her league-leading 15th of the season.

Coming off the bench to spark the Bulldog comeback with season highs in points (12) and rebounds (8) was Keizer. Plummer added eight points, four assists and three steals, while junior Ashleigh Brady distributed a career- and game-best five assists against no turnovers.

Green Bay took an early lead in the first half, leading by as much as six and owning a 17-12 lead with 8:31 to go. That’s when Drake went on a 14-0 run, fueled by a trio of three pointers, one of which was part of a four-point play by Whorton.

After a basket by junior Lauren Dybing powered Drake to a 28-21 lead with 3:45 left in the first half, the Phoenix reeled off eight straight points capped by a Kati Harty lay-up to grab a 29-28 halftime lead.

Green Bay’s run continued into the second half, as Glover scored 12 of team’s first 14 points of the stanza as the team shot 8-of-11 out of the locker room. But as hot as the team was to start, the Drake defense limited the Phoenix to just 11 points over the final 12:44 of the game.