Northern Iowa hangs around, but Drake puts things away with emphatic fourth quarter

CEDAR FALLS, Ia. — Drake hasn’t faced much Valley resistance during this run of two-plus years without a conference loss. But Northern Iowa has consistently been the program that can hang with the Bulldogs the longest.

Friday was no different.

Down by as much as 16 in the opening half, the Panthers came storming back with a strong third quarter to make it a game. Drake, though, clamped down the way veteran squads do, emerging with an 88-64 win at the McLeod Center.

Drake’s Nicole Miller looks to pass against Northern Iowa Friday at the McLeod Center

(Photo: Courtesy of UNI Athletics)

Sara Rhine led the Bulldogs (13-4, 5-0 Missouri Valley Conference) with 26 points and got double-digit help from Becca Hittner (19) and Maddy Dean (13). Mikaela Morgan (13 points), Ellie Howell (15), Karli Rucker (10) and Abby Gerrits (10) all reached double figures for UNI (10-7, 3-2) as well.

Drake hit the gas with a 17-5 run to start the fourth, using its vintage high-flying offense to regain momentum after the Panthers punched back. UNI had the home crowd juiced following a strong third, but the experienced Bulldogs didn’t panic as things tightened up.

Six different Drake players scored during its game-sealing surge, and UNI couldn’t keep up. The Panthers missed eight of their first 10 fourth-quarter shots. The team still figuring out how to thrive without Megan Maahs faded down the stretch.

The Panthers, though, could’ve been buried much earlier. UNI trailed by 16 in the first half and was in danger of getting ran out of its own gym early. The Panthers climbed within nine at the break, spilling that over into the third with a swift start.

A Gerrits trey knotted things, 49-49, with 4:18 to play in the third. That’s longer than most MVC teams can hang with Drake.

The Drake bench celebrates against Northern Iowa Friday at the McLeod Center.

(Photo: Courtesy of UNI Athletics)

But the Bulldogs did their thing in winning time. The unblemished conference streak marches on.

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

Source Article