DES MOINES - The Drake women's basketball team made it a bittersweet return to the Knapp Center for a pair of the program's former coaches.
The Bulldogs overcame a three-point halftime deficit by outscoring Saint Louis 39-30 in the second half, handing the Billikens, head coach Lisa Stone and assistant Amy Stephens a 61-55 setback here on Friday.
Stone guided Drake to a 64-27 record and two NCAA tournament berths in three seasons (2000-03), while her successor Stephens compiled a 151-130 record and one NCAA tourney berth in nine seasons in Des Moines.
All the coaching experience inside the Knapp Center didn't come through for the Billikens (5-7), however, as the team committed 22 turnovers. Drake (4-6) started the second half on a 10-0 run, sparked by consecutive 3-pointers by Kyndal Clark and Carly Grenfell, and never trailed again.
"The biggest thing we stressed at halftime was to control what we could control," said Drake first-year coach Jennie Baranczyk. "We had to control the tempo, and if we can do that we can win games."
Lorreal Jones, who led Saint Louis with 15 points and seven rebounds, made a free throw to tie the game at 37-all, but the Billikens never regained the lead they nabbed near the end of the first half after holding the Bulldogs scoreless over the final 3:10.
Drake shot 6-for-6 from the free-throw line inside the last 1:23 of the second half to keep Saint Louis at bay, snapping a two-game skid. The Bulldogs were 10-of-12 at the line for the game to help mask a 36-22 rebounding advantage for Saint Louis.
"The last eight minutes of the game we really stepped it up and played great team basketball," said Baranczyk. "We did a much better job on 50-50 balls and stepped up and hit our free throws."
Morgan Reid led the Bulldogs with 13 points, while Grenfell and Clark added 12 and 10 points respectively. Alyssa Marchner chipped in four points, seven assists and three steals, while Stephanie Running had nine points and Ashley Bartow added eight off the bench.
Drake takes a week off for the holidays and will return to action on the road Dec. 29, taking on Milwaukee at 3 p.m.