Drake has been known to dazzle opponents with the flair of its free-flowing offense, but that's not all the Bulldogs are about.
Sunday, rebounding and defensive grit proved to be the difference in lifting the Drake women's basketball team to its second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship.
The top-seeded Bulldogs held Northern Iowa without a field goal over the final 7 minutes, 28 seconds at the TaxSlayer Center to earn a 75-63 victory and the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA tourney.
"We knew we would have to focus on every possession down the stretch, every stop mattered," Drake forward Sara Rhine said.
After a lay-in by Megan Maas pulled the Panthers within 64-61, third-seeded UNI missed its final 10 shots from the field and the Bulldogs methodically pulled away to their sixth straight win over their instate rival including victories in the last two Missouri Valley tourney finales.
Becca Jonas fueled the deciding run of eight unanswered points by Drake.
Her jumper was followed by a three-pointer by Nicole Miller, a basket by tournament most outstanding player Maddy Dean and a free throw by Sammie Bachrodt which left the Panthers with a 72-61 problem with 3:22 remaining.
"We talked a lot before the game about managing their runs," UNI guard Kennedy Kirkpatrick said. "We didn't do the job we needed to do with that. They'd make a shot, we didn't answer."
That was an issue from the onset for Northern Iowa, which fell behind 20-12 after one quarter and trailed 43-36 at halftime.
The Panthers had fallen behind by 13 points three minutes into the second quarter but used a series of three-point baskets by Ellie Howell, Nicole Kroeger and Rose Simon-Ressler, all off of offensive rebounds, to claw back into the game.
Among a collection of 11 UNI hit in 30 attempts, Howell and Kirkpatrick connected on consecutive threes in the third quarter to position the Panthers to take a 49-48 lead on a jumper by Taylor Hagen with 5:31 remaining in the quarter.
"We were starting to play with some confidence in the third quarter, hitting some shots, but it didn't last," Kirkpatrick said.
Northern Iowa's only lead of the game lasted 19 seconds before Miller scored on a lay-in to give Drake a lead it wouldn't relinquish on its way to its 21st straight win.
"We showed a lot of toughness," Dean said. "Northern Iowa has a good team and we knew we were in for a fight. When they made a run, we had to find a way to answer. We got that done and it feels pretty good."
In a game which saw 20 players score, balance was big for both teams.
Drake (26-7) was led by 12 points apiece from Miller and Rhine, an effort complemented by 10-point efforts from Jonas and Dean.
"Our depth has been a strength and we needed it against a UNI team that defended us really well," said Bulldogs coach Jennie Baranczyk, whose bench outscored the Panthers' reserves 43-25.
No Northern Iowa players scored in double figures but eight Panthers finished within between six and nine points, an effort led by nine-point games from Simon-Ressler and Mikaela Morgan.
In addition to holding UNI to 32.8-percent shooting, the Bulldogs were able force the Panthers (19-13) into 13 turnovers which led to 17 points.
"That's what they do so well. If you make a mistake, have an empty possession, they make you pay," UNI coach Tanya Warren said. "At times, I felt we became stagnant offensively, catching and holding the ball instead of moving it to get their zone to shift and open a crease."
That led Northern Iowa to a loss in the Missouri Valley title game for the third straight year.
"That's something we'll address in the offseason, finding a way to take that next step," Warren said. "We came a long way with a young team from where we started, but we have work to do."