With only eight active players due to injuries, the Bulldogs went on the road and breezed past North Dakota 76-51, earning their fourth straight victory.
Playing shorthanded on the road, coming off a tournament championship over Thanksgiving break, it would have been easy for the Bulldogs to have a letdown against now 1-5 North Dakota.
“I’m proud of the team for this gutsy win,” Head Coach Amy Stephens said in a Drake athletics press release. “To come out as sharp and mentally focused as we were was impressive. I like the way our team played today.”
Drake jumped out to an 11-2 lead after it was able to hold North Dakota without a field goal for the first four minutes of the game. The Bulldogs took a 44-25 advantage into halftime, powered by 15 points from senior Kristin Turk.
After that, the Bulldogs were never really threatened in this contest. Using a balanced scoring attack, the offense kept coming from everywhere.
Turk led the way with 21 points, her fourth consecutive 20-point game. Junior Amber Wollschlager had 15, junior Rachael Hackbarth had 10 and freshman Angela Christianson broke out with a career-high 17 points.
Drake also shot well from three-point range, going a season-best 10-for-18. And as far as balance goes, every Bulldog was able to make it into the scoring column for the second consecutive game.
Freshman Morgan Reid dominated the boards, as she recorded a career-best 13 rebounds. Stephens commented on the impact Reid had on the game.
“She had a terrific game defensively,” Stephens said. “There are a lot of things she did that won’t show up in the box score.”
The win improved Drake’s record to 5-2, best among Missouri Valley Conference teams.
Up next for the Bulldogs is a home date with Wisconsin this Thursday. It will be the first time former Bulldog coach Lisa Stone returns to the Knapp Center and should prove to be the stiffest non-conference game Drake will face this season.
Bulldogs win Northern Arizona Thanksgiving Classic
The Drake Bulldogs recorded a pair of double-digit victories against Central Michigan and host Northern Arizona to earn the Hilton Garden Inn Northern Arizona Thanksgiving Classic title last Saturday.
Turk led the way, averaging 21 points per game in the contests and earning tournament MVP honors for her sensational play.
“It was an honor to be named MVP, but honestly I’m really proud of how we played as a team this weekend,” Turk said. “We had a lot of assists and had multiple possessions where everyone on our team touched the ball.”
The Bulldogs were able to clamp down on defense and hit from the perimeter when they needed to. Surely, a title early in the season will give the young Bulldog squad a lot of confidence moving forward.
“I think that the Thanksgiving tournament was a much-needed confidence boost for our team,” Turk said. “We were feeling a little down after the Iowa State and St. Mary’s losses, but going on the road and winning a championship really helped our team out.”
On Nov. 26, the Bulldogs squared off against Central Michigan. Led by junior Rachael Hackbarth’s fourth career double-double and by Turk’s 22 points, Drake assured itself a spot in the tournament final against Northern Arizona with a 90-70 victory.
Hackbarth posted 22 points and 12 rebounds, helping outrebound Central Michigan 41-34. The Bulldogs had one of their best offensive games of the season, reaching a season-high in points and recording 21 assists as a team.
Following their victory, the Bulldogs faced off against host Northern Arizona. This time, the Bulldog defense stole the show.
Drake held Northern Arizona to 52 points and relied on another 20-point effort by Turk to cruise to a 67-52 championship victory. Playing solid team defense, the Bulldogs also showed off a balanced scoring attack, as five Bulldogs scored at least eight points.
“Both games in Arizona were big growth games,” said senior Ellie Ritscher. “We saw a lot of the things we’ve been working on in practice come into the game.”
With the non-conference schedule coming to a close, the Bulldogs now feel confident going in to face some tough Missouri Valley Conference competition.
“We have been working really hard every day in practice and have grown a lot as a team already this year,” Ritscher said. “If we stay on track these last few weeks, I would say we will definitely be ready for conference play.”
Photo: Carter Oswood