Men’s Basketball avoids double-digit losing streak with home win over Bradley

January 30, 2016 3:12 PM

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE BY ADAM ROGAN

The Drake Bulldogs (6-16, 1-9 MVC) snapped their nine-game skid and picked up their first win since Dec. 22 with an 80-70 home victory over the Bradley Braves (3-20, 1-9 MVC) in a bottom of the conference matchup. The win was Drake’s first in the Missouri Valley Conference this season and ended a losing streak that began on Dec. 31.

“It felt like our day as a team,” redshirt junior Kale Abrahamson said. “At times it looked like we might let it slip as we have in the past, but we didn’t let it happen.”

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Loss at Illinois State extends Men’s Basketball’s losing streak to nine

January 27, 2016 11:05 AM

ARTICLE BY ADAM ROGAN

The Bulldogs remained winless in the Missouri Valley Conference this season after a rough second half at Illinois State.

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Close loss to UNI knocks Bulldogs out of first place

January 24, 2016 6:52 PM

By Austin Cannon

In a contest with large implications on seeding in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, the Northern Iowa Panthers outlasted the Drake Bulldogs 79-73 in a thriller at the Knapp Center on Sunday.

The two teams entered Sunday tied for first in The Valley. UNI (11-7, 6-1) now occupies the top spot alone while the Bulldogs (12-6, 5-2), who saw their five-game winning streak snapped, will have to wait until Feb. 19 for a rematch in Cedar Falls.

The meeting of the top two teams lived up to its billing with dramatic final moments. Drake took a one-point lead with 1:38 to go off a Sara Rhine 15-footer, giving the Bulldogs their first lead since 23-22 early in the second quarter.

But UNI answered immediately. Sharnae Lamer, a Des Moines East High School graduate, found Amber Sorenson on the left wing. The senior netted the 3-pointer and the Panthers were up 73-71 with 1:12 remaining.

“Anytime anyone hits a three at the end of the game, that’s not an ideal situation, but at the same time we didn’t lose hope that we could come back,” Rhine said.

Drake had a chance to tie, but Lizzy Wendell turned the ball over on a mishandled exchange. It went back to UNI, and Lamar dribbled between the circles as the clocked ticked under a minute. With fewer than 10 seconds on the shot clock, she moved to the right and passed to Sorenson on an open cut to the basket. She made the uncontested layup with 28.3 seconds to go.

That proved to be the dagger. The two-possession lead was too much for the Bulldogs to overcome as the Panthers hit enough free throws in the final seconds to prevail.

It could’ve been worse for the Bulldogs, who finished with only seven assists and made only 4 of 16 3-pointers. The game was on the fringe of becoming a blowout when the Panthers took a double-digit lead in the third quarter, up by as many as 14.

Drake, however, clawed its way back into the game late in the fourth quarter. The Panthers took a 70-62 lead after Jen Keitel hit a short jumper with 5:46 left. It was after that shot that the Bulldogs were finally able to return to their normal fast-paced style that had eluded them all game.

It started with a Caitlin Ingle drive and layup. After Lamar missed a jumper, Ingle found Rhine for a transition layup. UNI missed two layups on its next trip down the floor and, again, Ingle found Rhine going the other way. With 3:35 left, Drake was only down 70-68.

Wendell hit one free throw to close the gap to one point with 2:18 remaining. After UNI missed its seventh shot in a row, Rhine knocked down her jumper from the right elbow to give Drake a 71-70 lead and send the Knapp Center into a frenzy.

The racket was quickly quieted when Sorenson immediately responded with her 3-pointer.

“We made a run, just needed to sustain it a little bit more,” Baranczyk said.

Until the fourth quarter, Drake wasn’t able to get into their customary up-tempo offense and saw almost no opportunities in transition. The Bulldogs finished with only six fast-break points. Baranczyk wants her offense to be fast-paced in its half-court sets too, but she thought it slowed in the second and third quarters on Sunday, playing to UNI’s strength.

“It was not in our favor,” she said. “We needed to up the tempo on both ends of the floor.”

Turnovers were again an issue; Drake notched 17 on Sunday, which resulted in 23 UNI points. In the past three games, the Bulldogs have turned the ball over 60 times.

“It’s the hesitation ones that we’ve got to get better … when we’re not decisive enough on our dribble handoffs, we’re not decisive on our passes, and we start to question ourselves,” Baranczyk said.

Drake was able to find some success in the halfcourt, though. Ingle made her first five shots, all in or near the lane off the dribble, and Rhine turned in her best game of the season, scoring 22 points and collecting a career-high 15 rebounds against the taller UNI defenders.

“You need to be confident. You can’t just go straight up, you have to use your body in order to get around them,” Rhine said.

UNI coach Tanya Warren said postgame that her team’s best defense was a potent offense, and that was biggest problem for Drake. Five Panthers scored in double digits, and as a team they shot 50 percent from three-point land, led by Madison Weekly. She made six threes, two more than the entire Drake team.

The third-leading scorer in the conference, she finished with 25 points to lead all scorers, making a pair of 24-footers from the wing. With four other players on the floor who were also threats to score, the Bulldogs couldn’t stray from their assignments in their zone defense. That gave Weekly open looks.

“What makes her so lethal is that everyone can step up at 25 feet and shoot it,” Baranczyk said. “When you have a lot of people that can shoot it and you have a Jen Keitel inside, you’re a hard team to defend … they’re a very well-balanced team.”

Sorenson finished with 12 points for UNI, and Stephanie Davison had 15 (13 in the first quarter). Lamar dished 11 assists. Ingle finished with 18 points for Drake.

Drake now sits in a tie for second in the MVC with Missouri State and Loyola. A matchup in Chicago with the Ramblers looms next Sunday. Before then, Drake will play at Bradley on Friday. Now a game back, the Bulldogs will have to get back into the win column to keep pace.

“We need to focus on moving forward and staying together as a team,” Rhine said.

Women’s basketball: Drake tied atop MVC standings after dominating Illinois State

January 17, 2016 9:08 PM

By Austin Cannon

Teams can’t lose at home if they want to compete for a conference championship, so it was imperative that the Bulldogs take care of business at the Knapp Center this weekend against a pair of teams with losing records.

With a big second half, Drake bested Indiana State on Friday, 80-55. Sunday night the Bulldogs hosted Illinois State and outclassed the 3-13 Redbirds, 76-41. It was how a contender is supposed to play, never letting the Redbirds get close after the opening quarter.

It was Drake’s fifth consecutive victory, and the Bulldogs are now tied with Northern Iowa atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings, setting up a can’t-miss matchup with the Panthers next Sunday at the Knapp Center.

On this Sunday, Drake’s victory came via 25 assists on 32 baskets. Caitlin Ingle led with eight assists and Maddy Dean followed closely with a career-high seven. Five other players also recorded at least one assist. All nine Bulldogs scored.

Head coach Jennie Baranczyk was most impressed with who supplied the assists. Ingle leads the team in dimes, but Drake’s two top scorers, Dean and Lizzy Wendell, combined for 10 assists.

“When you look at a lot of our assists, they’re coming from the people who are quote-on-quote ‘supposed to score points,’” she said. “That’s one of my favorite things about this team.”

“It’s just really fun basketball to be a part of right now,” Dean said.

Sara Rhine was the primary benefactor of all the sharing, assisted on five of her seven made field goals. Three of those were from Dean, who found the 6-foot-1 freshman on cuts to the basket twice and once more when a ISU defensive breakdown left Rhine all alone under the basket. The resulting layup forced a Redbird timeout and gave the Bulldogs a 47-29 lead with 5:30 left in the third quarter.

The timeout was hardly enough to halt the Bulldogs’ advance. After four turnovers early in the quarter, the Bulldogs settled in and outscored the Redbirds 22-10 in the third quarter for a 26-point lead. Just like on Friday, Drake had effectively won the game after 30 minutes of play.

For Rhine, it was a continuation of what has been an impressive first season. She came in averaging nearly 12 points per game and now feels even more up to the task of MVC basketball.

“(I) definitely feel a lot more confident than I did even starting the season,” she said. “Just seeing how much time together we’ve had and just how comfortable I am with my teammates and up and down the floor just feels so comfortable, feels so good.”

The Drake lead was on an upward trajectory all night. A five-point lead after the first quarter grew to 14 points at halftime. The Bulldogs never trailed, and the game was only tied once: 2-2 after the teams traded opening baskets. Rhine led all scorers with 17 points, and Wendell scored 12, marking the 62nd consecutive game she’s scored 10 or more. The streak dates back to her freshman season in 2014.

The Redbirds weren’t doing much to help their cause. Their 10 of 26 shooting kept them within striking distance in the first half, but they only converted five shots from the field in the second half (16.7 percent). ISU’s 22 turnovers — 13 of which came on Drake steals — only made things worse. It was the lowest scoring output of a Drake opponent this season.

For most of the afternoon, an ISU player would receive the ball and immediately find herself toe-to-toe with a Drake defender.

“Communication is our number one thing that we always are talking about,” Rhine said. “Even if we don’t have the right rotation or not in the right spot, (we) at least talk through it; then we’re fine because we’re able to cover for one another.”

The Bulldogs were far from error-free themselves, committing 24 turnovers. Ill-advised passes that fell into Redbird hands were the main culprit, proof that even with a five-game winning streak and a spot atop the MVC standings there’s still work to be done.

“We probably could go through a lot of our turnovers where I’d have liked for us to make better reads,” Baranczyk said.

To compensate for the poor ball security, the Bulldogs shot over 58 percent. Why so well? High-percentage shots. Drake scored 50 points in the paint and shot 70 percent inside the three-point arc.

“We’re really taking what people are giving us, so when people really try to take away the three-point line, that’s when we’re having some advantages in the paint,” Baranczyk said.

The Bulldogs have a week before UNI, a game that right now has big implications on who might win the conference. At this point, though, Baranczyk likes where her team is. After losing 5 of 6 around the holidays, the Bulldogs have climbed out of the hole.

“I really, really like the fact that we know we have to have the chemistry and we know what it feels like to really not just survive but to be able to excel,” Baranczyk said. “That’s the piece that I really like — that you always want but teams don’t always have. This team has that.”

Drake women use huge second half to beat Indiana State

January 15, 2016 9:14 PM

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY AUSTIN CANNON

Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk opened her postgame press conference with an unprompted expression of gratitude.

“Second halves,” she said. “Thank goodness for second halves.”

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Women’s basketball: Bulldogs back on track

January 14, 2016 6:00 AM

womenbasketballBy Austin Cannon

The Drake women’s basketball team has returned to a familiar habit: winning.

After dropping five of their previous six, the Bulldogs have won three straight and sit at the No. 2 spot in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with a 10-5 (3-1) record, half a game behind Loyola.

It’s so far been a season of peaks and valleys. Drake reeled off six straight victories to begin the nonconference season, averaging 81 points per game in victories over the likes of Iowa State, Wisconsin and Creighton. Then the roller coaster started down the loop. The Bulldogs lost four of the final five games of the nonconference slate, the only victory coming over Division III William Penn, 100-61. The MVC season started with a 10-point setback to Southern Illinois on New Years.

Only two games from .500, Drake responded by winning its next three games by an average of 26 points. A big win over Evansville preceded two away victories over Missouri State and Wichita State. It was the first time since 2009 that the Bulldogs had beaten the Bears and Shockers away from the Knapp Center.

As she usually does, Lizzy Wendell led the Bulldogs in scoring in both victories, scoring 19 against the Bears and 27 against the Shockers. The junior from Blue Springs, Missouri, leads the MVC in scoring at 21 points per game.

Freshman Sarah Rhine earned the MVC newcomer of the week honors. She put up a 14-point and 7.5-board performance in last week’s victories. Rhine has been a force off the bench in her first Drake season, averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and putting her squarely in the race for the MVC freshman player of the year.

Junior Caitlin Ingle is climbing her way through the Drake record books. Her 407 assists are good for seventh in the program’s history. Halfway through her junior year, she’s a near lock to finish in the t0p three by the end of her career.

Drake will try to take the top spot in the MVC standings this weekend, hosting Indiana State Friday at 7 p.m. and Illinois State Sunday at 6 p.m.        

Men’s Basketball blown out by Northern Iowa, losing streak now at four

January 10, 2016 10:39 PM

STORY BY ADAM ROGAN

The UNI Panthers (10-7, 2-2 MVC) kept the Bulldogs (5-11, 0-4 MVC) winless in conference this season on Saturday in Cedar Falls. It was also Drake’s biggest loss of the season, 77-44, a 23-point deficit.

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Missed opportunities doom Bulldogs in loss to Indiana State

January 6, 2016 11:07 PM

STORY BY TIM WEBBER

The Drake Men’s Basketball team played a strong second half against Indiana State on Wednesday, but had spent the first twenty minutes digging a hole they couldn’t quite escape. The Sycamores (8-7, 2-1 MVC) survived the Bulldogs’ rally, 79-69, in the first game at Drake since J-term classes began.

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No scholarships, no problem

December 17, 2015 2:20 PM
Keegan Gallery battles for yardage. PHOTO BY VALARIE MEYER | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Keegan Gallery battles for yardage. PHOTO BY VALARIE MEYER | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

By Austin Cannon

Zac Rujawitz knew he would commit to play football for the Bulldogs on his drive home from campus back in January.

It was after his first and only visit to Drake, but the freshman linebacker from Edwardsville, Illinois, had seen and heard enough to make his decision.

“I just kind of came in here blind,” he said. “I’m glad I did because I had no expectations, but leaving here, I knew I was going to commit here just based on what all the players were telling me and then I just loved the coaches here.”

Rujawitz gave two primary reasons for choosing to play at Drake: a good education close to home and the program’s family atmosphere. Like the other 109 players on the Bulldogs’ roster, he will not receive an athletic scholarship to play football.

Drake is a charter member of the Pioneer Football League, a college-football anomaly if there ever was one. The PFL is a football-only, non-scholarship conference that began play in 1993.

If a program is caught providing improper benefits for its players — any financial aid not available to the student body at-large — it will face punishment from the PFL. Jacksonville was caught last season, resulting in the program’s ineligibility for the 2014 and ’15 league titles. (more…)

Drake’s student-athletes: scholars or stars?

December 12, 2015 8:26 PM

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE BY BAILEE COFER

Online fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel have guaranteed participants a combined $37 million in prize money, according to CNBC. However in the state of Iowa, it is illegal to participate in this form of gambling. This is doubly banned for Drake University’s student-athletes, regardless of what the laws in their home state may be.

Since Drake participates in Division I athletics, it is therefore subject to the NCAA’s compliance rules, one of which prevents athletes from sports wagering. All student-athletes, coaches and athletic staff members must adhere to NCAA rules during the entire academic year regardless of whether or not their respective sport is in season.

Dan Anderson is Drake’s NCAA Director of Compliance. It is his job to oversee all of Drake’s compliance operations and to be a resource for student-athletes pertaining to their eligibility. Football season is a prominent time for sports wagering. Anderson talks to all of Drake’s sports teams about what they can and cannot do under NCAA rules.

“Athletes cannot wager anything of value with the opportunity to win something,” Anderson said. “However, they can wager if there is no monetary value involved to enter, and the opportunity is open to everyone — like the Warren Buffet perfect bracket for March Madness last year.”

Under this rule, student-athletes could not be picked to play in half-time games for prizes at Drake sports events, but could enter a free raffle or random drawing. Student-athletes cannot accept free meals or gifts for being a part of a sports team, as those are considered to be “extra benefits” and are not allowed by the NCAA.

On Drake’s campus, the intramural program states that student-athletes cannot participate in the same sport that they play at the NCAA level.

“The rules are in place to ensure fair play and facilitate integrity within the athletic systems,” Anderson said.

All these rules that apply to student-athletes do not apply to regular students.

“I think at some schools there is some separation between student-athletes and students,” Anderson said. “Drake has really strived to make athletes equals with the general public.”

One of the ways in which Drake does this is through not having a standard miss-class policy, an athletic training table for meals or early registration for athletes, which are often found on other universities’ campuses.

“I feel Drake makes a big effort to even out the privileges among student-athletes and students,” said senior soccer player Alex Freeman. “We don’t really get anything that gives us a big advantage. We are treated like regular students.”

Freeman says there are pros to being a student-athlete. But they go along with missed opportunities, such as not being able to study abroad for a semester because of practices and games she can’t miss.

She has also noticed a degree of separateness between students and student-athletes. Teammates, Freeman has observed, generally hang out with one other more than they do with students.

“It kind of comes naturally,” Freeman said. “It’s noticeable in the classrooms. Teammates sit by teammates, sorority sisters sit together, fraternity brothers sit together — people tend to associate more with people they spend a lot of time with.”

Joel Fuxa is a senior at Drake who has seen both sides. He played football his first two years at Drake, but stopped after suffering a shoulder injury and has spent the past two years exclusively as a student.

“I think there is some separation between students and student-athletes,” Fuxa said. “You tend to gravitate towards people you are similar with and spend time with.”

As a student-athlete, Fuxa said he felt disadvantaged compared to students because he had a lot less time to do schoolwork and socialize due to practice schedules and traveling for competition. As a student, he has more free time, but gives up the team community was once a part of. He said some advantages he’s received being a student have been being able to participate in fantasy football leagues and Drake half-time games, during which he has even been successful and won prizes.

Fuxa said the only notable privilege student-athletes have over students is they sometimes receive more lenience from professors in the classroom.

“You’ve got to keep in mind that when the student-athletes miss class, it’s because they are going somewhere and representing Drake University,” Fuxa said. “They are doing their best to bring respect and recognition to our school, so that is kind of a justification for the few privileges they get.”

Anderson, Freeman and Fuxa all said that Drake seems to have a unique situation in which there appears to be less disparity found between students and student-athletes than on bigger campuses.

“There is no ‘I’m better than you attitude’ on either side,” Fuxa said. “There is no glorification given to one group over another. And that is what sets Drake apart.”

Drake’s tournament run ends with 5-1 loss at Creighton

November 23, 2015 1:10 PM

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE STORY BY ADAM ROGAN

After an impressive 4-game winning streak through the MVC Championship and Wednesday’s 2-1 upset at Kentucky, the Bulldogs were demolished by the no. 12 Creighton Blue Jays in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

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