Photo: File Photo
As the clock ran out during Drake’s 77-74 loss to Indiana State last Thursday night, the team saw its chance to move upward in Missouri Valley Conference rankings slip away.
The Bulldogs, now 9-9 and 3-4 in the Valley, also fell to Illinois State last Saturday, 60-45. The Redbird defense held the team to its lowest scoring percentage of the season at 29.6 percent.
In Thursday’s matchup, not even a 5-point scoring onslaught in only 35 seconds by guard Kristin Turk in overtime could help the Bulldogs finish the job.
“It was a very close game,” head coach Amy Stephens said. “I felt like we missed an opportunity to win it in regulation because we gave up three offensive boards in the last 90 seconds of the game.”
The final minutes of regulation time also stripped the team of its second leading scorer, junior Rachael Hackbarth. She fouled out with only one minute left in the game, leaving the Bulldogs without their go-to forward for overtime.
Hackbarth finished the game with 15 points, 11 of which were scored in the second half, when the Bulldog defense started to slip.
“Had we done a better job of rebounding, we would have won it,” Stephens said. “We gave them too many opportunities to tie the game or take the lead again.”
Those opportunities did make for a thrilling matchup. The game was tied 12 times and the lead changed hands a total of 13 times.
Turk’s impressive 32-point performance led the team in scoring.
“When we found ourselves down by two and had to tie the game, Kristin was guarded by two and three players,” Stephens said. “That’s when the others have to step up.”
The combination of defensive tactics that nearly eliminated Drake’s leading scorer, the loss of Hackbarth and a few key foul errors made for a challenging overtime for the Bulldogs.
Foul trouble has plagued Drake for the past few weeks of the season. Turk cites the foul pattern as an area for improvement for the Bulldogs.
“We need to quit fouling and we need to get better offensively,” Turk said. “We’ve also got to get into more of a flow as a team.”
The young team has a group of hard-working freshmen that Turk said are helping the Bulldogs step up their game. One of those players is Morgan Reid.
“Morgan is a rebounding machine, Alyssa (Marschner) is getting more comfortable at point guard and Angela (Christianson) is good at making baskets and is going to be a real good scorer down the stretch,” Turk said.
Stephens said the youth on the court is surprising, even for her.
“I get back and I start watching game film and I think, ‘Holy cow,’ we’ve got two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior on the floor and we’re subbing in two sophomores,” she said. “It’s exciting because they’re getting a lot of experience.”
In the coming weeks, Drake has the opportunity to establish themselves as a top team in the conference, but the Bulldogs also stand the chance of falling into the bottom half.
With two challenging home games against Wichita State and conference-leader Missouri State coming up next week, Drake may finally break out of the middle of the pack in the Valley.