Comeback falls short as defensive woes doom Cyclones to defeat

Junior Bridget Carleton defends Drake’s Sammie Bachrodt’s three pointer in Iowa State’s 83-80 loss. Carleton finished with 19 points.

Noah Rohlfing

“Mr. Drake” was certainly with the Bulldogs on Tuesday night.

As Drake honored the loss of long-time fan Paul “Mr. Drake” Morrison, the Cyclones fell behind 7-to-2 in the opening stages and fell to Drake 83-80 in a thrilling contest. The Cyclones fought back from what was at one point a 16-point deficit, but a second consecutive poor defensive showing meant that the comeback would amount to nothing.

Coach Bill Fennelly was proud of his players for making it a tight game.

“That was a great college game,” Fennelly said. “We’re the kind of team that our margin of error is very, very small.”

The Cyclones let Drake shoot over 50 percent from the field, only the second time this season an opponent has broken the 50 percent barrier against Iowa State. The Bulldogs’ ball movement left the Cyclones looking flat-footed on defense, using quick passes to cut through the Cyclones’ interior time and time again. When the first half ended with Drake ahead 41-31, one stat told the story: Of Drake’s 17 first-half field goals, 14 were assisted.

Overall, the Bulldogs hit 32 field goals and 27 of them were assisted. That stat line would make the Golden State Warriors swoon. When a team is humming like that, the defense has to play nearly perfect to keep up.

For most of tonight’s game, the Cyclones were one step slow.

Sophomore forward Adriana Camber acknowledged that the Cyclones were caught sleeping far too often.

“We have to stay active all the time,” Camber said. “That cost us the game.”

The Bulldogs’ first basket of the second half was indicative of the game the Cyclones had on the defensive side of the ball, as a backdoor cut found Drake guard Maddie Monahan a step ahead of junior guard Bridget Carleton, resulting in a layup and Carleton’s third foul.

Once Carleton went to the bench, things got worse. By the time she re-entered with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had opened up a 56-42 gap. The risk had backfired.

“It’s beyond challenging when your best player is on the bench,” Fennelly said. “That was a big moment in the game.”

Camber, who had a season-high 16 points, scored four baskets in a three-minute stretch to drag the Cyclones within three, and heading into the fourth Iowa State held the momentum despite being down 62-57. The Knapp Center was alive, and for a moment, the young Cyclones were finding their groove.

The Cyclones showed some defensive life for a four-minute stretch in the fourth, forcing the Bulldogs into difficult looks and locking down the defensive glass. The Cyclones took the lead 72-70 after a 13-0 run late in the fourth, and when Camber hit her fourth 3-pointer (and the Cyclones 14th of the night) to give Iowa State an 80-76 advantage, the Cyclones looked like they had come back from the brink to steal the win.

But a four-point play by Monahan and a floater and-1 by Drake guard Becca Hittner with 2.4 seconds left handed the Bulldogs an 83-80 lead.

“They made some big plays,” Carleton said of the fourth-quarter haymakers. “We weren’t able to recover from them.”

Carleton’s last-second 3-point attempt was blocked as the clock struck zero, sending the Cyclones to a second in-state loss this season and a third defeat in five games.