MOLINE, Ill. (AP)Maggie Bair scored 19 points with 15 rebounds and six blocks, Katie Dinnebier scored 19 points and had nine assists and Drake routed Missouri Valley Conference newcomer Belmont 89-71 in the tournament championship game on Sunday to qualify for its 14th NCAA Tournament.
Anna Miller scored 15 points for the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (22-9), who last went to the Big Dance in 2019. Grace Berg added 14 points and Sarah Gueldner 11.
Drake defeated top-seeded Illinois State, which shared the regular-season title with Belmont, by 20 in the semifinals.
Destiny Wells hit eight 3-pointers and scored 34 points for the second-consecutive game for the second-seeded Bruins (23-11), who had their 16-game winning streak snapped. Kilyn McGuff added 15 points.
Belmont moved to the MVC this season after earning the last six Ohio Valley Conference berths, not counting the COVID season of 2020. Wells, the MVP of the last two OVC tourneys, scored 96 points in three tournament games – and 31 points in the regular-season finale.
In the two games the teams split in the regular season, Drake went 14 of 38 and 9 of 27 from 3-point range. Focusing more on working inside-out the Bulldogs scored easily in the paint, shooting 58.5% overall and making 9 of 22 behind the arc, most of those in the second half. They also went 18 of 19 at the line with Dinnebier making 10 to run her consecutive makes streak to 36 before she missed and finished 13 of 14..
Bair had a double-double by halftime – 11 points and 10 boards – as Drake led 39-26. Binnebier also had 10 points as the Bulldogs shot 52%. But that was nothing compared to the second half shooting – 64%, including 6 of 9 3-pointers. They also went 18 of 19 from the foul line and had 42 points in the paint.
Belmont ended up 13 of 26 behind the arc but shot just 41% overall and was 2 of 6 from the foul line.
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