Photo: Joel Venzke
The Drake’s women’s basketball team came up short in its season opener against South Dakota, losing 74-69 on Sunday at the Knapp Center.
The Bulldogs came into the game having won both of their exhibition games comfortably but faced a tough opponent in South Dakota. The Coyotes ended the Bulldogs’ Women’s National Invitational Tournament hopes last season, defeating Drake 61-53 in the opening round in Vermillion, S.D. The loss ended the Bulldogs’ season.
“I knew it was going to be different, South Dakota is a very good team. I knew they were going to start off attacking because they had lost their previous game. We came out a little timid compared to what we need to be,” said sophomore Kyndal Clark. Clark scored 21 points against the Coyotes.
South Dakota played tough defense and held the Bulldogs to just 34.3 percent from the field in the game, including 27.3 percent in the second half. The Bulldogs were unable to put a stop to their offensive woes and South Dakota’s guard Nicole Seekamp dominated the game, finishing with 18 points and six assists.
“I thought our players showed a lot of fight especially in the last seven and a half minutes, you always want the ‘W’ (win), but at the same time, I think that we’re still learning a lot,” said head coach Jennie Baranczyk. “We’re still learning how to play together, to control the tempo the entire time and when we played up tempo and we rebounded, we were in control of the game, and when we didn’t, we didn’t, and South Dakota to their credit is a good team.”
Junior Morgan Reid recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The Bulldogs got a big boost from the bench when sophomore Liza Heap came out in the second half and sparked their offense.
“She (Liza Heap)came in with a spark that turned us around and got us going,” Clark said. Heap scored 12 points coming off the bench and helped the team find its energy.
Heap wasn’t the only player off the bench to step up, though. The Bulldogs were able to cut down South Dakota’s lead to 69-63 thanks to a 3-pointer by junior Mary Pat Specht. The Bulldogs trailed by four at the half and trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half.
“When Mary Pat Specht hit that 3-pointer to put it within a two possession game, the crowd went nuts and it was awesome and people were into it,” Baranczyk said. “I think now we just have to learn how to win.”
With the momentum on their side, the Bulldogs fought to close the gap in the final minutes but came up short.
“I’m really proud of this team and the fact that we didn’t back down and if we’d had another minute, we would have had them,” Clark said.
While the last seven and a half minutes helped the team come together, the players acknowledge they still need to improve on a few things.
“Our goal is to come out and control the game from the beginning and go back to our three keys: rebounding, communication and up-tempo style of play,” Clark said.
With a game on Sunday at 2 p.m. against Illinois at Chicago at the Knapp Center, the Bulldogs are looking to avenge last season’s defeat. Drake lost to UIC 61-48 last season.
“We just want to come out with the first punch, for this game we just weren’t playing Drake basketball. We just want to play Drake basketball,” Clark said.
Baranczyk hopes the Bulldogs will continue the transition to a new style of play, looking for their first win of the year.
“Rebounding is going to be a staple of ours and continuing with the up tempo styles the entire game, because I think that’s something that I’m not going to compromise and our staff isn’t going to compromise,” Baranczyk said. “It’s a lot more fun to play and a lot more fun to watch.”