Photos by Jake Bullington
BY JOSEPH MILLER
The Drake women’s basketball team picked up another pair of wins this weekend, taking down Illinois State and Bradley University. The wins improve Drake’s conference record to 13-0, the single best start in Missouri Valley Conference history.
“This team is really strengthening their belief in each other,” said head coach Jennie Baranczyk, “and you can see it on both ends of the floor.”
Friday night, Drake found themselves pitted against the Illinois State Redbirds.
The two teams traded blows in the opening minutes of the first, but an 11-0 run late in the quarter put Drake in the driver’s seat. They’d remain there for the rest of the game. Drake ended the quarter with a 14-point lead and pushed the lead to 24 at the half.
Drake did not let off the throttle in the second half, outscoring the Redbirds 36-14 in the third quarter to extend the lead to 46. The Bulldogs would coast in the final quarter and eventually took the game 101-49.
The 101-point effort was the most points scored by the Drake squad since January of 1997, when the team took down the Creighton Bluejays 106-78. The offensive onslaught was no surprise given the Bulldogs outstanding 59.7 shooting percentage from the field combined with 52 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Senior Lizzy Wendell led the charge for Drake with 22. Freshman Becca Hittner followed her closely with 20. Caitlin Ingle aided the offensive attack with 10 assists. The wealth was shared around the team, with all 10 Bulldogs who played recording at least four points.
The Bulldogs relied heavily on its defensive capabilities, forcing 19 turnovers and 14 steals. 24 of Drake’s points came off those turnovers.
Drake looked to keep up the momentum up in game two as it squared off against the Bradley University Braves. Drake jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead and didn’t look back from there. After establishing a nine-point lead after the first quarter, Drake opened the second quarter on a 17-3 run to push the lead to 23 heading into halftime. But the Bulldogs weren’t done yet.
Determined to once again hit the triple-digit mark, Drake started the second half with 13 unanswered points. The Bulldogs would continue the onslaught, eventually finishing out the third quarter with a 43 point-lead, and still another quarter yet to play. The Bulldogs would continue to push the score up but would eventually fall short of the century mark by just two, taking the game 98-46.
For the second straight game, all 10 players for the Drake squad scored, with Lizzy Wendell leading all scorers with 20. She leads the country with 102 consecutive games with double-digit scoring.
Caitlin Ingle added 16 more as well as seven assists. Becca Hittner wasn’t far behind, notching 15 points and five boards.
Drake dominated every aspect of the game, scoring 40 points in the paint, as well as 10 in transition and 28 off of turnovers. A 50-percent shooting performance from both the field and the three-point line aided in the effort.
The win marked the marked straight for Drake as well as the record-breaking thirteenth in a row to start the Missouri Valley Conference season.
In addition to separating themselves from the rest of the conference, Drake has cracked the Top-25 AP poll, finding itself on the poll for the first time since 2001.
Much of this success can be placed upon consistentency from Drake’s top players.
When asked about the monumental achievement, Baranczyk humbly said “I do think it’s special.”
“But what’s even more special,” she continued, “is that we didn’t set out on a mission to do anything, other than to get better and have fun doing it.”
Drake’s next action is a road game against Indiana State this Friday.