Photo: Connor McCourtney
Drake relied on its ability to bounce back this weekend, as the team rallied from sizable deficits to beat Missouri Valley Conference rivals Illinois State 67-58 and Indiana State 72-67.
“We’re showing a lot more resilience in games,” head coach Amy Stephens said after the Indiana State victory last Saturday afternoon.
Last Thursday night’s victory for the Bulldogs shattered a seven-game win streak for Illinois State. The Redbirds are third in the conference standings with a Valley record of 9-5 after the weekend.
Senior standout Kristin Turk scored 26 points in the contest, six of which came in the final 43 seconds of the game. Turk had a strong finish, and a strong second half overall, scoring 18 in the period.
The one-half-on, one-half-off pattern has persisted with Drake throughout the season, and the game against Illinois State was no exception.
Trailing by 10 points in the first half, the Bulldogs rallied against the Redbirds from the end of the first half into the second with a 20-4 run that earned them the lead—and they never lost it again.
Drawing fouls and sinking free throws sealed the deal for the team, as it added six points from Turk at the charity stripe.
Turk’s second-half standout performances in the games this weekend weren’t due to a lack of effort in the first half. Stephens said the trend is a deliberate tactic.
“She has been phenomenal this weekend and the difference is her composure,” Stephens said. “She is forcing fewer shots earlier in the game. That’s something we talked to her about: Let the game come to you.”
That composure carried through into Saturday’s match-up against Indiana State.
Indiana State came out strong in the first half, hitting shots more regularly than Drake and using junior center Shannon Thomas for her height and power under the basket.
The Sycamores led the game for the entirety of the first half, with Brittany Schoen hitting a career-high seven 3-pointers in the game.
But the second half was a different story.
A layup from Turk initiated a 22-5 run in the last 14 minutes of play, and the crowd was electric the whole time.
“We got the crowd behind us which is huge here at home,” junior Amber Wollschlager said. “When we get the crowd into it the other team gets intimidated, I think, and that gets us going.”
In the midst of all the scoring, Indiana State’s Thomas fouled out with just less than seven minutes remaining, leaving no answer for junior Rachael Hackbarth who tallied 18 points and nine rebounds.
Wollschlager said that it’s play like Hackbarth’s—hitting layups and drawing fouls—that will win games for the Bulldogs.
“That’s the thing: we need to have more people who push the ball,” Wollschlager said. “[Offensive] boards and layups are the easiest shots to make in my mind, so if I can get me some layups, I’ll build up some confidence and we can go from there and make some 15-footers.”
Drake held its fifth-place spot in the conference with these two wins, and is now only a half-game behind Missouri State in MVC standings. The Bulldogs were picked to finish seventh in the preseason.
“Not many people expected that a month ago,” Wollschlager said. “That’s a great position for us to be in—I love being the underdog, I love taking teams down.”
After a strong showing at home, Stephens said it’s time to focus on what the team can do on the road.
Up next for the Bulldogs is Missouri State this Friday and Wichita State on Sunday. Missouri State is 6-2 at home and Wichita State is 5-2 at home in the MVC.