IOWA CITY, Iowa — Jordan Roundtree got a chance to be the hero. She delivered.
Roundtree made the decisive free throw to push Missouri past Drake 77-76 in overtime of its first-round NCAA Tournament game Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Tigers did not have Sophie Cunningham and Cierra Porter available for the final possession — both had fouled out in overtime — and Roundtree was fouled by Becca Hittner on a 3-point shot with 1.1 seconds left.
She made one of the free throws to break the tie and send Missouri on to Sunday's second-round game against host Iowa.
It was an incredibly close call, and Hittner clearly blocked Roundtree's shot, but Roundtree said after the game Hittner made a lot of body contact on the follow-through, and her reaction was enough to draw the call.
"I didn't feel it so much as pressure," said Roundtree, who is a career 72-percent shooter from the foul line and shot 79 percent this season. "The odds are really in your favor at that point. I shoot hundreds of free throws a week. I'm extremely confident in my ability to do that."
Roundtree's success wasn't a surprise to her teammates.
"She stepped up all year and obviously that free throw at the end is what sealed it," Porter said. "But I just think it's a testament to how she's grown and matured like as a person, as player, and you know, we need her. She's someone that contributes a lot for us. Not always points necessarily but energy, defense, everything she contributes and so she's clutch in a lot of ways, not just scoring."
Roundtree finished with seven points and four rebounds and was a good slashing weapon against Drake's zone defense, in which she found holes and hit two layups at the shot clock buzzer earlier in the game. Her two misses in the overtime period were the Tigers' only misses of the afternoon: Missouri finished the game 14-of-16 at the foul line.
But one was all her team needed.
Missouri coach Robin Pingeton drew up a play to Amber Smith, and wanted the ball to go inside to her with about eight seconds left to ensure Missouri got the last shot. But Drake defended it well, Roundtree drew a foul and converted at the line.
Survive and advance, even by the skin of your teeth.
"Honestly, it still hasn't really hit me," Roundtree said. "It hasn't hit me that much yet, but it's one of those situations where you never know when it's going to come. So you always have to be ready. I was put in a situation I haven't really been in since high school, but like I said, you never know when it's going to come, so if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready."
Cunningham scored 21 points to lead all scorers and was 10-of-10 at the foul line, Porter added 18 on 7-of-9 shooting, Lauren Aldridge totaled 12 and Smith scored 11.
Hittner had an excellent look at a 3-pointer with less than a second left to win the game for Drake after Roundtree's free throw but it was just off. Hittner led the Bulldogs with 19 points, and Eldon grad Sara Rhine added 18.
"Like coach Jennie said, this hurts. A lot," Rhine said. "Especially for our four seniors. I think more than anything it just shows that we deserve to be here, and that we have all we need right within our circle. And that we also need to be better, to get better."
Neither team was able to get a double-digit lead in a back-and-forth game. The Tigers finished the first quarter 5-of-10 from 3-point range and finished 9-of-25 from distance. Drake was 12-of-16 on 3s, but Missouri made up for that with a 16-6 advantage in second-chance points.
It was a battle between Porter and Rhine on the block all game long. Each drew fouls on the other and hit shots over the other's outstretched hands. Rhine had a chance to win the game for Drake at the end of regulation, but her shot, with Porter defending, was just short.
"She's another really good player for them," Porter said of Rhine. "Watching film, it's incredible how she uses her body. She knows how to cut, get open and she's just really crafty. It's hard to defend, so I have to give her credit. She's one heck of a post player even though she's a little undersized. Yeah, that was a good battle, everything she contributes and so she's clutch in a lot of ways, not just scoring."
Porter had a key moment herself. Overtime started with a 3-pointer from Drake's Sammie Bachrodt, which was answered by a 3 from Aldridge, which was answered by a 3 from Maddie Monahan.
On the next possession, Porter found herself wide open on the wing and nailed her third 3-pointer of the season to tie the game at 70, and on the Bulldogs' next possession drew an offensive foul from Rhine. A similar 3 powered the Tigers' regular-season upset at Mississippi State.
It was a solid effort defensively by the Tigers, who held a team that averages more than 80 points per game to 64 in regulation. But Emmanuelle Tahane's defense and contributions stood out to her teammates.
Tahane was tasked with guarding Hittner, Rhine and Drake's shooting guards Maddy Dean and Nicole Miller at different points in the game. She finished with a team-high three steals and forced another four turnovers in 30 minutes on the floor, and Missouri outscored Drake by 12 points while she was on the floor.
"I thought the unsung hero of this entire game was Noop (Tahane)," Aldridge said. "She played her tail off defensively, she got in the passing lanes, she got her hands on a lot of balls and did a great job on the boards. I'm super proud of her and how she stepped up for our team today."
Just one example of her impact: with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter, Miller had a breakaway layup that would have given the Bulldogs a four-point lead, but she missed with Tahane pressuring her from behind and helped the Tigers secure the rebound.
"I think I was on the bench, and Noop got another deflection, another steal, and I was like, 'Dude, she's D-MVP,'" Roundtree said. "She really is. It might not have showed up in the stats, but a lot of those possessions that we got in the second half were because of her. She busted her butt on defense and made some huge plays for us."
Missouri's reward for advancing is a chance to play Sunday against an Iowa team that looked vulnerable in its game Friday.
A No. 2 seed has never lost to a No. 15 seed in the women's tournament, but Mercer fought hard and led the hometown Hawkeyes at halftime before ultimately falling 66-61.
If the Tigers can find a way to contain Megan Gustafson — and to be fair, few have been able to contain the favorite for national player of the year, as she scored 30 points and pulled down 16 rebounds against Mercer — then Missouri will advance to Greensboro, N.C., for the Sweet 16. Gustafson's season-low is 13 points, and she's scored fewer than 20 points this season the same number of times, three, she's scored more than 40.
But Mercer played tough defense all game and clearly rattled Iowa at several points. The Hawkeyes had zero bench points in the win and two of their starters combined for eight points.