Photo: Derek Nipper
Rebounding from a pair of tough losses at the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge, Drake dealt North Dakota a 74-60 defeat last Thursday night at the Knapp Center.
To topple the Fighting Sioux without starting redshirt junior point guard Brittnye McSparron, Drake had to have contributions from young players.
Sophomore guard Alyssa Marschner was ready to step into just that role.
With a career-high 10 points, Marschner was one of three Bulldogs to reach double figures in scoring.
Following difficult losses to Marist and Hofstra at the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge two weeks ago, the Bulldogs aimed for quick passing, consistent defense and a positive mindset in front of an announced crowd of 2,006 people.
A statement-making start marked the first step to victory against North Dakota’s notoriously tough zone defense.
Junior forward Stephanie Running tallied the first four points to open a 12-1 Bulldog run. Besides scoring 15 points in the contest, Running also led Drake with seven rebounds.
The Bulldogs’ advantage stayed in single-digit territory until redshirt freshman guard Carly Grenfell sank a three to give Drake a 17-5 lead. Marschner added a bucket to put Drake up by 14.
“My mentality was just to go out and do whatever I can to help the team,” Marschner said.
Marschner drained her first of two 3-pointers to put Drake up 28-8, stretching the Bulldog lead to 20 points.
A Running basket put Drake up 39-16 at the break.
The Bulldogs shot 45.5 percent from the floor compared to just 17.2 percent for the Fighting Sioux in the first half.
Much to North Dakota’s dismay, Drake tacked on basket after basket to open the second half, eventually widening the gap to 29 points.
The duo of Marschner and Grenfell sank consecutive threes to complete Drake’s largest lead at 59-30.
Following five consecutive North Dakota tallies to close the lead to 61-42, senior forward Rachael Hackbarth added back-to-back baskets, stumping the Fighting Sioux yet again.
North Dakota was unable to catch an offensive break in the game’s final minutes due to the stiff Drake defense, and the Bulldogs closed out the win with two free throws by sophomore Morgan Reid.
Coming off the two tough defeats in Cancun, the Bulldogs knew this game marked an opportunity to refocus.
“We’ve been preparing for North Dakota,” Marschner said. “We scouted all their plays. We read our scouting reports day and night. We wanted to be prepared for this team because we wanted to make a statement.”
Despite plummeting Iowa temperatures, the Bulldogs were eager to return to Des Moines after the tournament in Cancun.
“They were two tough losses,” Hackbarth said. “I think coming back to our home court, we were really hungry for a win. We stressed the importance of swinging the ball, and we did a really good job of that.
Hackbarth had a team-high 21 points in the game.
Gearing up to face North Dakota State this Thursday, the Bulldogs look to hit the practice court with goals in mind.
“Our team can definitely get better at defense,” Marschner said.
Hackbarth said that fans can expect the Bulldogs to “stay consistent as far as being a balanced team, to not be one or two scorer heavy and put a full game of defense together” in the contest against North Dakota State.
The Bulldogs improved to 2-4 on the season. The game included an enthusiastic crowd as Drake enters a December stretch of challenging opponents, including Wisconsin, Iowa and Creighton.
Thursday’s game at the Knapp Center is set for 5 p.m.