Drake ready for weekend battle at Knapp
Photo: Connor McCourtney
At this point in the season, the Bulldogs have seen it all before.
The team is now 3-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference and 9-11 overall. Drake has played every Valley team once already this season.
Drake will take on Evansville (7-13) tonight at 7:05 p.m. at the Knapp Center. The Bulldogs will have another home contest Saturday at 5 p.m. against the Southern Illinois Salukis (2-18).
“We’ve played all of them, so we know what to expect,” freshman Morgan Reid said. “We’ll be ready come Thursday.”
Reid said that one of the struggles for the youth on the team has been experience.
“I think, with most of us young players, it’s just getting used to being out there,” Reid said. “Now that we’ve played everyone once, nothing is really new at this point.”
The newcomer has played a key role this year on defense, earning the most rebounds on the team in tough matchups against Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Iowa. Reid also earned four steals in Drake’s 66-57 loss against Wichita State last Thursday.
As one of the standout defensive players, Reid said Drake could use some focus on defense in the coming contests.
“I think as a team, we just try to capitalize on our strengths,” she said. “At some points, our defense is really strong and, when that happens, we need to take that momentum and build on it.”
So far, the Bulldogs have shown up to play for one half and let down during the other. Head coach Amy Stephens said that will continue to challenge her team for the next half of conference play.
“The biggest key for our team is consistency,” Stephens said. “Our team just has not been able to put two halves together.”
When Drake played Wichita State last week, the Bulldogs started shooting only 30 percent from the field in the first half, but finished at 41 percent, matching the Shockers’ second-half average.
Saturday’s game against Missouri State was the same story but inverted. Drake finished the first half leading by one point, but lost the lead quickly in the second, falling to the Bears 90-61.
Stephens cites a number of factors that contribute to the inconsistency. The youth of the team and injuries to key players like junior Brittnye McSparron and sophomore Katie Schechinger are two of the key factors.
“It makes for tough nights when you play teams with six juniors and a senior and a deep bench,” Stephens said.
The Missouri Valley is a strong conference this year, now ranking eighth in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI Report. The Valley also comes in 10th for strength of schedule.
Evansville and Southern Illinois, though the lowest teams in the standings, will no doubt reflect that strength.
The Purple Aces are 2-7 in the MVC. Drake has seen them on the court once before this season, on Evansville turf, playing a close game and pulling away with a 69-62 win in overtime.
Kristin Turk scored a season-high 41 points in the matchup.
“They’re very scrappy, and they haven’t been blown out by anyone,” Stephens said. “They’re competitive and they play hard.”
The Salukis are 0-9 in the MVC. But don’t let their record fool you. Stephens said they’re a hard-fought team, just like Evansville.
“Every week, we have our hands full,” Stephens said. “Hopefully, playing at home against two teams we’ve already beaten will give us the confidence we need to win.”