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Winter watch: Women’s basketball

Angela Christianson is on a roll for the Drake women’s basketball team, which has found its own momentum by winning its last four games.

Christianson continued a great start to her freshman year last week. She recorded 14 points, two assists and a career-high nine rebounds in a Nov. 30 win over North Texas and scored a career-high 17 points in a win against North Dakota last Saturday. Christianson was named Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week on Monday. Her average of 9.9 points per game leads all MVC freshmen.

“I have to give lots of credit to my teammates,” Christianson said. “They’ve just been really supportive. They’re really passing well to me when I was open. We have good chemistry right now.”

Drake (5-2) is counting on its young roster to help supplement the duo of senior guard Kristin Turk and junior forward Rachael Hackbarth.

“As a freshman, I have no pressure on me; I can just go out and play,” Christianson said. “It’s fun getting this great opportunity as a freshman, getting to go out and help my team right now.”

Turk has been a major contributor in the Bulldogs’ winning streak. Turk was named MVC Player of the Week on Monday for the second consecutive week, the first time that has happened for a Drake player since Jill Martin accomplished the feat in 2006.

Turk set a season-high of 24 points, posted a career-high seven steals and tied a career-high with six assists against North Texas. The seven steals tied for the sixth-most in a game in Drake history. Against North Dakota, Turk scored 21 points and tallied six assists again.

Turk leads the MVC in scoring with 19.9 points per game and 2.9 steals per game.

Hackbarth has been Drake’s presence in the post, averaging seven rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Drake head coach Amy Stephens said that it’s been a team effort building around the two leaders, Turk and Hackbarth. Stephens said players like Turk help the younger players improve.

“Kristin brings so much passion and so much energy to our team, and is such a great teammate and role model with how she plays, her work ethic everyday,” Stephens said. “You know, it’s neat when you see freshmen try to emulate that.”

Stephens has noticed a change in Christianson’s play since the start of the season.

“Angela has improved every week,” Stephens said. She said Christianson has been improving offensively, defensively and has become mentally tougher.

Christianson credits some of her improvement to Turk and Hackbarth.

“They’re super helpful,” Christianson said. “They’re such great leaders on the court and off the court. They’re great role models, great examples.”

Stephens has noticed improvement all around for the Bulldogs.

“Our team chemistry has really come together,” Stephens said. “Our practice environment is really good this year, and we have a lot of coachable players who come in every day and work hard to improve.”

Drake will know how much it has improved after tonight. The Bulldogs face a Wisconsin team that is much better than its 2-7 record suggests. The Badgers own the nation’s 18th toughest schedule and have played most of it without at least one of its better players. Tipoff is at 7:05 p.m at the Knapp Center.

The Bulldogs host Tennessee Tech (5-1) this Saturday before welcoming No. 19 Iowa (8-1) to Des Moines on Dec. 20.

Stephens said the matchup against the Badgers will help prepare the team for the Hawkeyes. Stephens added that both games will show the team how to play against a true, physical opponent.

Missouri Valley Conference play begins for the Bulldogs on Dec. 31 in Omaha, Neb., against rival Creighton.
“We will definitely be ready by Dec. 31,” Stephens said. “I’m definitely glad we have four more games before we open up. I think that experience will be good for our team.”

If Christianson and the rest of the team continue to improve, those extra weeks could be just what the Bulldogs need.

Photo: File photo


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