For the young Bulldogs, returning home to the Knapp Center might just be what the team needs to dust off its early season slump. After all, Drake has undergone a school-record, six-game road swing while facing some sturdy competition.
“We must make sure we are not affected by the slow start and continue to work hard,” senior guard Ryan Wedel said. “We must continue to work hard every day in practice, and make sure we stay positive and continue to gain confidence as the season progresses.”
With a 2-4 record, the Bulldogs certainly have learned some tough lessons on the road. A 48-point drubbing against Iowa State overshadowed what had been an encouraging debut win against Texas Southern.
After Drake rebounded nicely with a win over Southern Utah at the Great Alaska Shootout, it suffered a
43-point loss against St. John’s. Close losses against Weber State and Colorado State roundout the Bulldogs’ record.
“Obviously we are disappointed by the rough start, but if we keep working hard, we will get where we want to be,” sophomore center Seth VanDeest said.
Growing pains were to be expected for the inexperienced Bulldog squad.
“With a young team like we have, every game of experience is important for us,” VanDeest said. “We will get better with every game that we play.”
There is still room for improvement for Drake because players have played together for only six games, and with all the new faces it’s tough to get into a rhythm, especially on defense.
“We need to rebound better and get stops on the defensive end,” VanDeest said. “Those are two areas that we have really struggled with through the first six games.”
The Bulldogs will now get the opportunity to gain some confidence and improve their winning record. After they squared off against Eastern Michigan on the road Wednesday night, Drake will play its next five games at home.
The first four of those games will round out the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule before they begin play in the tough Missouri Valley Conference.
Drake will face off against Boise State, Iowa, Dartmouth and Chicago State at the Knapp Center. The Bulldogs will try to avoid going 0-2 against Iowa and Iowa State for the second consecutive season.
On Dec. 29, the Bulldogs will host their first conference game of the season against Southern Illinois. Last season, Drake went 3-0 against the Salukis, the only team they were able to sweep throughout its MVC campaign.
“The Valley is always a really tough league, year in and year out, so we know it is going to be tough,” VanDeest said. “There are really good teams that you face every night, so it will be a challenge, but I think we will be ready to handle it.”
Photo: File Photo