DES MOINES, Ia. — Drake honored Paul Morrison during halftime of Sunday's women's basketball game against Iowa.
They call Morrison "Mr. Drake." And that’s no cheapo nickname. The soon-to-be 100-year-old fan has been to more than 700 Bulldog football games and 79 Drake Relays. He graduated from Drake in 1939 with a degree in journalism and he’s one of 14 Drake alumni in his family. The athletics department has built its yearlong celebration, "Year of the Fan," around the devotion of Morrison, er, Mr. Drake.
He hadn’t seen the Bulldogs beat Iowa in women’s hoops since 2001; he was 84 and Jennie Barancyzk was a Hawkeye standout then.
Mr. Drake saw it happen at 99, with Barancyzk as Drake's fifth-year head coach. The Bulldogs outplayed Iowa from tip to buzzer and beat the Hawkeyes 81-76 for their first win in this series in 15 years.
"I think you saw a young team in Iowa come in here and get their tails whooped," Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said. "And that’s exactly what happened by a veteran Drake team. So great job by Drake. We’ll get there. We just have some work to do, but we’ll get there."
It was one of those games. The type Bluder said she wanted to avoid — thought this team could and would avoid — before the season started. When Iowa really shouldn't be in the game, when the other team is simply faster and can do very little wrong, while the Hawkeyes can do a lot wrong.
It was a game in which a pair of returning starters — Ally Disterhoft and Megan Gustafson — needed to take over for a chance to win.
And a chance they had. Despite trailing for nearly the entire game, Iowa was down 77-74 with 30 seconds left. Disterhoft and Gustafson had 44 at that point. But Drake finished on a 4-2 run.
Disterhoft and Gustafson finished with those 44. They shot 18-for-29. The other nine Hawkeyes who played scored 32 on 28 percent shooting (10-for-36).
"I thought Drake came with more intensity, more focus," Bluder said.
The Bulldogs were heralded before this game for their offense. But defense proved to be the difference.
Iowa had been ridiculous from the field in its three-game win streak over Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Robert Morris. It was shooting 55 percent (91-for-166) in those games — 52 percent (29-for-56) from long range.
Its numbers against Drake: 43 percent overall, 30 percent on 3s.
"We had trouble getting the ball into the paint and that’s a big part of our offense. But credit them," Bluder said. "They did a great job of that. You’ve got to knock down 3s when people are sagging off you like that, and we just couldn’t today."
More numbers: Drake outrebounded Iowa 41-37. That 41 included 16 offensive boards, which led to 13 second-chance points.
Some stuff you won't find on the stat sheet: Drake routinely edged Iowa on the hustle plays, the 50-50 balls that decide a tightly contested state rivalry game like this. The Bulldogs out-everythinged Iowa in the first quarter to take a 24-17 lead. They never relinquished that lead.
"And that’s what’s frustrating. Because that’s just hustle and heart, determination," Bluder said. "And I think they just had a little bit more moxie out there than we did."
Added Disterhoft: "Basketball is a game of runs and when you go back and forth for the entire game and you’re down for most of it, it can be tough."
The Hawkeyes did get some great minutes from Hannah Stewart and Makenzie Meyer. Stewart netted seven points and four boards in 10 minutes. Meyer scored just seven, but had three assists and a pair of steals, forced absolutely nothing and provided consistent energy in her 29 minutes.
Bain covers Hawkeyes basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.