MOLINE, Ill. — Apparently it doesn’t matter who is in the game for Drake, the result is the same.
Nicole Miller, Sara Rhine and Maddy Dean, all reserves, each scored in double figures and top-seeded Drake won its second straight Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and NCAA berth on Sunday with a 75-63 win over third-seeded Northern Iowa.
Miller and Rhine scored 12 points apiece and Dean and starter Becca Jonas added 10 as the Bulldogs (26-7) won their 21st straight game, their seventh MVC tournament and earned their 12th trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Dean was named tournament MVP after hitting 10 of 21 from distance and averaging 17 points. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Rhine and Becca Hittner, the regular-season MVP who had nine points and six rebounds in the title game.
So for the second straight year Drake (26-7) rolled through the regular season and conference tournament without a loss — and for good measure knocked off Northern Iowa in the title game — though not with the dramatics of last year’s 74-69 win in overtime.
No player scored in double figures for the Panthers (19-13), who had won six straight.
Miller’s 3-pointer highlighted a game-opening 7-0 run and Drake led 20-12 after one quarter, hitting four 3-pointers. Northern Iowa crawled back within one late in the second quarter but Hannah Fuller and Dean hit 3s 23 seconds part to make it 43-36 at the half.
Northern Iowa, which has lost six straight to Drake, took its only lead midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer and 3-point play from Kennedy Kirkpatrick in an 11-1 run. But almost as soon as Taylor Hagen’s jumper put the Panthers on top 49-48, Miller’s layup and Paige Greiner’s 3-point play started a 12-2 run for the Bulldogs.
Mikaela Morgan’s trey pulled the Panthers within four barely a minute into the fourth quarter and a Megan Maahs basket 90 seconds later made it 64-61. But Jonas hit a jumper, Miller followed with a 3 and an 8-0 burst made it 72-61 with 3:22 left.
The Maahs bucket was the Panthers’ last as they missed their last 10 shots. They ended up shooting 33 percent for the game. Maahs, a sophomore who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, and teammate Ellie Howell made the all-tournament team.
The teams combined for 33 assists on 47 baskets and just 26 turnovers. They also combined for 20 3-pointers.
Drake shot 43 percent and its nine 3s pushed their school and MVC record total to 318 and the 17 assists extended the school record to 749.