DES MOINES - The Drake women's basketball came out with energy, enthusiasm and plenty of heart at home against in-state rival Iowa on Sunday.
The only problem the Bulldogs ran into was a 6-foot-4 center who donned the black and gold.
Iowa senior Morgan Johnson scored 26 points, the Hawkeyes shot a season-best 52 percent from the floor and turned it over a season-low eight times in an 82-65 win at the Knapp Center.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Iowa senior Morgan Johnson, right, shoots a jumper over Drake’s Stephanie Running during in-state action at the Knapp Center on Sunday. The Hawkeyes improved to 8-2 overall following the 82-65 win in Des Moines.
"It was definitely fun playing against a team with much shorter players," Johnson said. "The passes by my teammates were also well paced. I didn't take a lot of tough shots. Our game plan today was to definitely go inside."
The Hawkeyes certainly went inside to the tune of 40 points in the paint. But Iowa also hit seven shots from long range, including two from senior Trisha Nesbitt, as the Ames native provided a huge spark off the bench with a career-high 12 points.
"I grew up around here so it was fun playing this game today," Nesbitt said. "It was our goal to win the mythical state championship. It was a fun day."
Iowa 82, Drake 65
IOWA (8-3) - Johnson 11-19 4-7 26, Doolittle 4-6 0-0 8, Logic 5-9 2-2 13, Taylor 2-5 0-0 6, Printy 3-9 3-3 9, Nesbitt 3-4 4-4 12, Thomas 1-1 0-0 3, Dixon 0-3 0-0 0, Peschel 2-3 0-0 5. TOTALS 31-59 13-16 82.
DRAKE (3-6) - Reid 3-9 10-12 16, Running 3-7 0-1 6, Grenfell 1-6 0-0 2, Clark 6-12 1-2 19, Marschner 2-5 3-5 7, Specht 2-7 2-2 7, Heap 1-2 0-0 2, Bartow 1-2 2-2 4, Lutes 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS 20-51 18-24 65.
Halftime-Iowa 39-34. 3-Point Goals-Iowa 7-15 (Taylor 2-3, Nesbitt 2-3, Logic 1-1, Thomas 1-1, Peschel 1-1, Printy 0-3, Dixon 0-3); Drake 7-18 (Clark 6-7, Specht 1-5, Marschner 0-1, Bartow 0-1, Grenfell 0-4). Rebounds-Iowa 31 (Johnson 8); Drake 32 (Reid 7). Total Fouls-Iowa 21, Drake 12. Fouled out-Doolittle, Reid. Assists-Iowa 23 (Logic, Printy 7); Drake 15 (Marschner 7). A-2,716.
Iowa, now 8-2 overall, defeated all three in-state schools this season to claim the mythical state championship. The Hawkeyes also have now won 11 straight games against Drake.
The Bulldogs fell to 3-6 despite leading by as many as nine in the first half.
"I think we played scrappy and when we pushed the tempo is when we went on our runs," said Drake coach Jennie (Lillis) Baranczyk, who was a three-time captain at Iowa from 2000-04. "We just don't have the size to match up with Morgan Johnson. She is just really good and is one of the best players in the nation. I don't think there's any question about that."
Drake gave Iowa all it wanted for much of the game. The Bulldogs led by nine midway through the first half before a 22-2 stretch gave the Hawkeyes a double-digit lead. The run was sparked by 3-point buckets from Sam Logic, Kali Peschel, Kathy Thomas and Nesbitt. The Hawkeyes eventually led by just five at the break.
"They were going to play with enthusiasm," said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, who was head coach at Drake for 10 seasons. "They shot lights-out in the first half and you just hope that it balances itself out."
Much of the damage in the first half was done by Kyndal Clark and Morgan Reid. Clark buried three straight triples to give Drake the advantage early and finished 6-of-7 from long range for 19 points. Reid added 16 points and seven boards for Drake.
"We tried to make this game an up-tempo game, and who wouldn't like to play in these in-state games," Clark said. "The place was packed."
Once Iowa got the advantage in the game, it continued to feed Johnson in the post, and most of the passes were lobs over the top. Johnson had several shot attempts a few feet away from the bucket and finished 11-of-19 from the floor.
"I hope the Valley doesn't get a Morgan Johnson over Christmas break," Baranczyk said. "That was our biggest issue today. We just struggled to defend the post."
One other Hawkeye joined Johnson and Nesbitt in double-figures. That was sophomore point guard Sam Logic, who finished with 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Jaime Printy also had nine points and seven assists.
The Hawkeyes maintained about a 7-10 point lead for the first 10 minutes of the second half until Drake got within four on a 3 and a free throw by Clark with just less than 7 minutes to play.
Iowa then used an 11-0 run to push the advantage back to 15 with 2:15 to play.
"That run in the first half was a big swing in the game because lived through the emotional start by Drake," Bluder said.
Clark said Baranczyk made the game more about the Bulldogs than about her facing her old school.
"It is now time for us to show how we can play," Clark said. "We took some steps forward today, but we're not there yet. We don't have to be though. It's still the non-conference season."
Nesbitt grew up in Ames and said her second college choice at the time of her recruiting was Drake. "When you win a mythical state championship, I am first happiest for me seniors and then happiest for the Iowa kids," Bluder said. "Tricia is both of those things. She definitely gave us a spark today." There were plenty of Drake connections on the Iowa sideline as well. Aside from Bluder coaching at Drake, assistant coaches Jan Jansen and Jenni Fitzgerald were standout players for the Bulldogs. Jansen's jersey also is hanging in the Knapp Center rafters. Both Jansen and Fitzgerald also spent eight seasons on Bluder's staff at Drake. The game was tied once and featured four lead changes.