The Bulldogs now own a 24-18 advantage in their contests against the Cyclone women, and ISU coach Bill Fennelly was placing the blame squarely on his own shoulders.
"Players have to respond to the coaching and respond to what they are told to do," Fennelly said. "Right now our team does not do that. That is my responsibility and I have to figure out a better way to do it or we will not achieve the kind of things that we have a chance to do."
Wednesday night's game saw eight lead changes with the largest margin being an eight point advantage by the Cyclones after center Brittany Wilkins successfully converted a free throw at the four minute mark in the first half.
But the Bulldogs soon clawed their way back and closed the deficit to four points on a basket by Lincoln Des Moines product Linda Sayavongchanh as time expired in the first half. That basket seemed to set the tone for the second stanza as the lead went back and forth in what ultimately turned out to be a defensive battle reminiscent of the Drake versus Iowa men's game the previous night in the Knapp Center in Des Moines.
The Cyclones constantly doubled down on Drake All-Conference center Carla Bennett in the first half, limiting her to just two field goals on five attempts. In the second half, Bennett came back strong and hit on three of four field goal attempts as well as four of six free throws.
Meanwhile, the Cyclones couldn't buy a basket, hitting only 33% of their field goals including a very uncharacteristic two of 13 three point attempts. Iowa State only scored on four of their 23 attempts for the game from beyond the arc while their opponents doubled that total on just 22 tries.
Three of those Bulldog treys came from 6-1 forward Maureen Head, who had only notched one of four in her entire career to date. The Cyclones didn't pressure Head on the perimeter, for obvious reasons, but it proved to be their undoing.
"She made three of four tonight, but if we had to go right back out, I'd still do that," ISU coach Bill Fennelly said of the Cyclones' strategy.
Meanwhile, customary Cyclone sharpshooters Lindsey Wilson, Mary Fox and Erica Junod scored on a combined five of 24 from the field including two of 14 from three point range. Those stats were burning in coach Bill Fennelly's mind as he addressed the post-game press conference.
"Their role players stepped up --- ours didn't," he said. "We missed wide open shots."
On a positive note, highly touted Cyclone newcomer/transfer Anne O'Neil made a strong push for a starting position as she knocked down 16 points, mostly on athletic, well-defended medium range jump shots, the likes of which haven't been seen since the play of Desiree Francis. O'Neil also pulled down six boards.
Center Lisa Kriener was also a huge factor in the game. Kriener, in addition to shouldering the evening's toughest task -- guarding Bennett -- scored eleven points and matched O'Neil's rebound total. After two solid outings, there appears to be great promise for the Cyclone interior, an area of concern going into the season.
For Drake, keeping the game close was the key.
"We never let them get ahead like last time," said Bennett, who was on the winning team against the Cyclones for the first time since her freshman year. "Every possession was important."
None were more important, however, than those within the final 12.5 seconds.
With ISU trailing 62-61, Erica Junod inbounded the ball to Lindsey Wilson, who then missed a shot with seven seconds left on the clock. The ball went out of bounds and Drake's Linda Sayavongchanh put it in play with only 3.9 remaining. An immediate foul by Junod sent Bulldog Maureen Head to the free throw line at the other end of the court. She drained the first one to put her team up by 63-61, but missed the second and the Cyclones still had life.
After a time-out at the 1.4 mark, Junod inbounded the ball to Wilson, who dribbled a couple of times and then attempted the ill-fated and shot just as the buzzer sounded.
"It was a great basketball game," Drake coach Lisa Stone said. "It makes us feel real good and builds some momentum."
Stone was particularly pleased that her team had prevailed in such a hostile environment.
"I couldn't even hear myself, it was so loud," she said. "The crowd (8,659) was awesome."
When asked how the Bulldogs got the job done, Stone said it was all about defense.
"We had great awareness of where they (the Cyclones) were," she said. "I thought Linda (Sayavongchanh) played the best defense of any freshman in America."
The Cyclones were impressed by Drake's play, but felt the game shouldn't have come down to the last shot as it did.
"When we were up by seven, we should have extended the lead," Wilson said. "We should have taken care of things earlier so it didn't come down to the last few possessions."
"Drake played a great game and deserved to win," Fennelly said. "After Lindsey (Wilson) got two early fouls, we got tentative. Our team has to make plays to have a chance to win."
"We just do not have the firepower to take people out of games. Tonight, I thought we played hard. We played with a great will to win, but that's only part of it. Execution and attention to detail is always what we've done and right now we're not doing it."
Next up for the Cyclones is another in-state battle with the Iowa Hawkeyes. That game will be played in one week from tonight at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
Drake 63, Iowa State 61
Leading scorers and rebounders:
Carla Bennett - 15 points, 8rebounds
Nicole Denman - 14 points, 3 rebounds
Maureen Head - 12 points, 3 robounds
Anne O'Neil - 16 points, 6 rebounds
Mary Cofield - 12 points, 7 rebounds
Lindsey Wilson - 12 points, 4 rebounds
Lisa Kriener - 11 points, 6 rebounds
Mary Fox - 3 points, 11 rebounds