Led by senior Kristin Turk and sharpshooting freshman Carly Grenfell, the Bulldogs routed Upper Iowa 80-52 in their first exhibition game of the season on Monday.
Nearly 1,500 fans attended the Bulldogs’ first test of the season. Drake did not disappoint, as it unveiled its new freshmen and “speedy” offense.
However, it was Upper Iowa who jumped out to an early lead with a three-pointer and a couple of nice entry feeds to the post, taking a 10-5 advantage. Shortly after, the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run, sparked by a couple of finishes down low from freshman Morgan Reid, to take the lead for good and never look back.
Drake relied on its defense on the wings, as it recorded 18 steals, to set up easy fast break opportunities to take control of the game. In the half-court offense, the Bulldogs were able to counter the Peacocks’ stingy inside defense with mid-range jumpers and crisp ball movement.
Upper Iowa is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and finished 2-25 last season. This served as a tune-up for the Bulldogs, whose season opener is against UMKC on Nov. 12 at the Knapp Center.
“We got the chance to get out all the jitters and the nerves,” said sophomore forward Stephanie Running. “We’re a young team and it was nice to finally go out there and play together.”
The story of the day was the performance of Drake’s scintillating freshmen. Alongside Turk, juniors Rachael Hackbarth and Amber Wollschlager, the Bulldogs’ starting line-up featured freshmen Reid and Grenfell.
“Our underclassmen will play a huge role on the team this year,” Turk said. “It was good for them to get some experience before going into the nonconference season, and I was really impressed with their performances.”
Grenfell got the start in place of sophomore Kayla Person, who suffered a minor injury last Saturday and made the most of her opportunity. Grenfell went 5-of-6 from the field and 3-of-4 from long range, as she cruised to a team-leading 19 points in the contest.
“It’s really great that she got her first game at the Knapp Center,” Running said. “She’s a freshman point guard, which is one of the toughest positions, and it will give her confidence moving forward.”
The Nebraska native was not the only first-year player who impressed. Reid scored all of her nine points in the first half and also finished with three rebounds. Freshman Angela Christianson had an all-around debut, recording 10 points, three rebounds and tying for a team-high four assists.
“Having an extra two weeks of practice at the beginning of this season has really helped our freshmen get comfortable with our system,” Turk said.
Wollschlager chipped in with four steals and six boards to go along with 10 points. Pacing the offense was Turk, who went a perfect 8-for- 8 from the free throw line and ended the game with 19 points, a game-high five steals and three rebounds.
Hackbarth, the Bulldogs’ most important presence in the middle, had a quiet game with four points, but pulled down seven rebounds.
A concern for Drake moving forward has to be taking better care of the ball. Even though the Bulldogs recorded 17 assists, they also turned the ball over 20 times.
“It was our first game and everyone’s nervous,” Running said. “As we play more together, we’ll know our cuts better and our timing will be better.”
Next in line for the Bulldogs are the Lady Hawks from Quincy University. This will be the second and final exhibition game for Drake. Tip-off is at 2:05 p.m. this Saturday at the Knapp Center.
“We want to work toward less turnovers and having a better start to the game,” Turk said.
Photo: Connor McCourtney