The Drake women’s basketball team did something it couldn’t last season, beating the University of Missouri-Kansas City 71-54 in the Bulldogs’ season-opener last Friday night at the Knapp Center.
Last season, Drake (1-0) lost its opener to UMKC, 70-68. That loss lingered in the back of the Bulldogs’ minds in the game’s early stages against the Kangaroos (0-1).
“I would say that at the beginning of the game, this was a little bit of a revenge game,” senior Kristin Turk said.
Eleven missed free throws came back to haunt Drake in last year’s contest. The Bulldogs hit 20-of-31 free throws this time around—not great, but good enough to help seal a victory.
“We still missed a lot of free throws today, but we were able to sustain it because of our defense,” Turk said. “And even though we had offensive droughts, we were able to sustain that because we had great defense in the second half.”
Turk led all scorers with 22 points. She also had three assists and tied for a team-high with two steals.
UMKC’s sharpshooters were on target to start the game, hitting their first four shots from beyond the arc. A 3-pointer from UMKC junior LeAndrea Thomas gave the fired-up Kangaroos their biggest lead of the night, 13-6, at the 15:39 mark. Thomas scored 10 points, hit 2-of-2 3-pointers and stole the ball three times for UMKC, but she was in foul trouble for much of the second half.
Thomas and two other Kangaroos, including sophomore Kim Nezianya, who tallied 14 points, fouled out late in the game.
The Bulldogs dealt with their own foul trouble in the first half. Each of Turk’s three fouls and two of junior Rachael Hackbarth’s three fouls were recorded in the opening 20 minutes.
“Some of that is on the coaches because one of the things we asked our players to do in this game was to shoot 30 free throws,” Drake head coach Amy Stephens said. “So we wanted them to attack.”
Drake stuck with UMKC throughout the first half and was able to draw an 18-18 tie after junior Amber Wollschlager nailed a jump shot. Hackbarth’s layup boosted the Bulldogs to a 20-18 lead with 7:06 to go in the half. She would finish the night with 18 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two assists for Drake.
Wollschlager and freshman Angela Christianson joined Turk and Hackbarth in double-figures, scoring 15 and 12 points, respectively.
UMKC tied the game again with 5:23 to go in the first half on a 3-pointer by junior Dayon Hall-Jones. Hall-Jones led the Kangaroos with 18 points, shooting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first half, but 0-of-3 in the second. As a team, UMKC made 7-of-11 3-point attempts in the first half, but was held to just 2-of-12 in the second.
The Bulldogs started the second half with a 32-28 lead but were able to outplay the Kangaroos for much of the half, making 52 percent of their shots and holding UMKC to just 10-of-30 from the field.
“We made much better reads,” Stephens said. “We had better ball movement, we had better ball reversal and then we attacked it and things really opened up.”
UMKC narrowed the score to 54-50 with 4:59 remaining in the game after Hall-Jones hit a jumper. The Bulldogs answered with an 11-0 run that started with two free throws from Hackbarth and ignited after Turk drained a 3-pointer less than a minute later.
Drake never relinquished the lead from that point and was able to start the season on the right foot.
“We had high intensity, high, positive energy, which I really think is what took us past them,” Turk said.
Drake travels to Ames tonight to take on No. 20 Iowa State. Tipoff is at 7:05 p.m.
In last season’s meeting, the Bulldogs upset the Cyclones, 78-75.
“It’s going to be a revenge game for them,” Turk said. “They’re going to want to come out and get us.”
Photos: Carter Oswood