By, HANNAH COHEN
Drake women’s basketball is back in Des Moines for its 2018 home-opener after taking two dubs on the road against Nebraska and Western Illinois this past weekend giving the Bulldogs an early 2-0 lead in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). After playing Dubuque (W 117-33) and Pittsburgh State (W 92-55) in preseason exhibition games, they are ready to bring the energy back to the Knapp Center with an end goal of getting a third consecutive MVC champion title.
“We’re all really excited to be in the Knapp, it’s the best place to play,” forward Sara Rhine said. “It was really fun to be on the road and get things going. It’s also great to get that momentum and bring it home just to continue what we’ve been doing and get better each game.”
Their first win of the season was against Nebraska with a score of 83-77 to come back from last year’s loss at the Knapp against the Cornhuskers in overtime.
“It was definitely a hard loss,” forward Becca Jonas said. “In non-conference, you have to think about the next game. They come from a good conference and they really picked it up after they played us last year. We just came in really focus, played our game, trusted it and it worked out well for us.”
After being down in the first with Nebraska up 29-15, Drake came back in the second holding Nebraska back with a 30-7 run making the score 45-36 Bulldogs. In the third, Drake scored another 15 with Nebraska still trailing 60-57.
The game became closer with Drake still taking ahold of the quarter 23-20, giving them a six-point win. Five of the Bulldogs registered double figures this game, with junior Becca Hittner, guard, leading the team with 19 points in 24 minutes.
Senior Sammie Bachrodt, guard, earned 15 points including four three-pointers (.438 3FG percentage). Senior guard Maddy Dean, registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds and senior guard Nicole Miller, and junior Rhine each got 11 points. Everyone who went in scored.
When you’re in the game, you’re expected to score. We don’t think twice about it and we’re always trying to set each other up [to score].
The Bulldogs then played Western Illinois and got a second on the road win with a score of 98-71. Rhine led Drake with getting just 18 points in 18 minutes and a field goal percentage of .750 and registered a second consecutive double-double. Hittner got 12 points 18 minutes and Miller earned 13 in 20 minutes with a .833 field-goal percentage and second straight double-figure scoring game.
“Our goal every day and every game day is to focus on us and take the scoreboard out of it,” Rhine said. “We have to take it play by play. We’re not going to win it in the first play of the game. It’s a process and we have to be able to lean on one another, trust one another and trust ourselves.”
The second quarter got Drake their highest amount of points per quarter of the match, outscoring the Leatherbacks 29-12. The Bulldogs outscored Western Illinois each quarter and never lost the lead. Even though Drake has the same starters as last year, Jonas said first years Allie Woolridge, forward, and Maggie Negaard, guard, have already added a lot to the team.
“They are both really good athletes,” Jonas said. “They came in with Western Illinois and they played with no fear which was awesome. In practice every day they’re battling against the best players in our conference so they’re getting better each day.”
Head Coach Jennie Baranczyk joined Drake Basketball in 2012 and for the past two seasons, has led the Bulldogs to consecutive 18-0 record MVC championship tournament titles and NCAA tournament qualification. Drake is the only MVC team to go undefeated in two regular seasons. Baranczyk continues to prep the Bulldogs to compete against teams each season.
“It’s always good to know how other teams are doing and just be prepared to put a good showing on the floor,” Rhine said.
South Dakota comes to the Knapp Center for the women’s basketball home opener this Thursday, Nov. 15. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. Admission is free of charge for students and when checking in with Drake’s Dog Pound app can get students rewards.
“I think starting on the road we played two really great teams,” Jonas said. “Being able to go on their home floors and start the season the way we did was really good for us. We have a lot of things we know we can get better at but we’re really excited to be back in the Knapp with a packed house.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF DRAKE ATHLETICS