This would have been hard to imagine a month ago.
The Wichita State women's basketball team defeated Drake 72-58 at Koch Arena on Sunday afternoon, completing a three-game home swing by sweeping three opponents ahead of it in the Missouri Valley standings.
It also marked the first season sweep of Drake for the Shockers since 1995.
"This team has come a long way," coach Jody Adams said. "The seeds were planted. We kept giving and giving and giving. The coaches knew it would turn, we didn't know when it would turn."
The three-game winning streak improves WSU to 8-8 in the Valley, which ties it with Indiana State for fifth place and leaves Drake a half-game behind.
The most drastic change since a rocky start has been the Shockers' defense. Adams said she sees a fight in her team, something that was absent earlier in the season.
Drake was the second consecutive team to turn the ball over 25 times against WSU. The Shockers have forced an average of 18.9 turnovers their last 10 games.
"That's what our defense does," Adams said. "We make teams play at a speed that they're not used to playing at."
Another improvement has been the way WSU responds to other team's runs.
Drake trailed 35-28 at the break, then rallied to cut the deficit within one possession four separate occasions. Each time WSU had a run of its own.
When Drake closed to within 43-41 with 13 minutes left, WSU scored eight unanswered points. Senior Morgan Boyd, the lone player celebrating senior day for the Shockers, started and ended the run with three-pointers.
"It was a warm feeling today in Koch," said Boyd, who finished with 13 points. "When that first three went down, I knew it was going to be a good ball game."
Then the Bulldogs made another run, closing to within three, when WSU's Haleigh Lankster was forced to leave the game with 11:55 remaining after taking a shot to the nose.
"I think two years ago we'd probably be calling the ambulance after that hit," Adams said.
But Lankster, who still doesn't know the extent of the injury, put some tape on it and returned with a little less than seven minutes left to fuel a 7-0 run for a 62-52 lead. Drake never recovered.
"I wanted to play," said Lankster, who scored a team-high 16 points. "The game wasn't nearly over. I wanted to get back and help the team out and show Morgan my appreciation."
Once the win was in hand, the mission became to get Boyd a final shot. Adams even called a timeout with 14 seconds left to do it.
"I think I probably should apologize publicly for that," Adams said. "I was just so excited, I couldn't figure out how I was going to get Morgan in and out of the game. It was totally my fault. I can't say that was very classy."
The Shockers set one last double-screen to get her open. Boyd received the pass and tried to stutter-step to avoid the defense and was whistled for traveling.
She took the last shot, anyway.
And for one last time at Koch Arena, Boyd found the bottom of the net.
"I knew it was in before she even shot it," Lankster said.
She knows it won't count officially as her last shot at home, but it still meant something to Boyd to see it go down.
"I enjoyed that," she said.
DRAKE (14-14, 8-9): Hackbarth 11-15 5-8 27, Running 2-4 0-0 4, Person 4-6 0-0 8, Turk 3-7 0-0 6, Wollschlager 1-7 3-4, Ritscher 0-0 0-0 0, Marschner 0-5 0-1 0, Reid 0-2 0-0 0, Montgomery 4-7 0-1 8. Totals 25-53 8-14 58.
WICHITA STATE (14-13, 8-8): Turner 2-7 3-4 7, Price 2-3 1-1 5, Diamond 1-5 6-9 8, Lankster 7-16 0-0 16, Dawkins 3-5 0-0 7, Boyd 5-12 0-0 13, Sanchez 1-3 0-0 3, Robben 1-5 0-0 3, Gordon 4-13 2-4 10. Totals 26-69 12-18 72.
Halftime—Wichita State 35, Drake 28. Three-point shooting—DU 0-7 (Marschner 0-1, Wollschlager 0-2, Turk 0-4); WSU 8-24 (Boyd 3-9, Lankster 2-4, Dawkins 1-1, Sanchez 1-2, Robben 1-5, Diamond 0-1, Turner 0-2). Rebounds—DU 45 (Hackbarth 15), WSU 33 (Gordon 6). Assists—DU 12 (Three tied with 3), WSU 18 (Diamond, Lankster 5). Fouls—DU 18, WSU 17. A—1,643.