Bulldogs start three freshmen in win at Evansville
Drake snapped its four-game losing streak on Sunday, toppling Evansville 55-51 in Purple Aces territory.
After last Thursday’s 63-59 defeat at Southern Illinois, Drake returned to the defensive drawing board. Despite Evansville’s last-place post in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Bulldogs anticipated a competitive contest.
Drake’s preparation paid off.
“It was one of our best defensive performances of the year,” Drake head coach Amy Stephens said.
Drake recorded three steals and two blocks against the MVC opponent.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 11 points in the game’s opening stanza en route to 43.3 percent first-half shooting. Evansville narrowed the Bulldogs’ advantage to five points at the break, 28-23.
Drake sprinted to an early eight-point advantage in the second half. The Purple Aces hit their offensive stride shortly after, as they powered an 11-2 run to take their only lead of the game with 4:40 left.
Evansville’s lone advantage lasted just 14 seconds as a Brittnye McSparron layup gave Drake the lead for good.
Several defensive stops proved key down the home stretch, and Drake rounded out the victory.
On the offensive front, senior forward Rachael Hackbarth earned her 17th double-double of the 2011-12 campaign with a team-high 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Sunday’s victory also catapulted Hackbarth into the national spotlight. She sits in second place nationally for the most double-doubles in a single season, Stephens said.
Sophomore Morgan Reid recorded eight points and five rebounds. The senior McSparron chipped in seven points.
The Bulldogs boasted 47.9 percent shooting from the floor compared to just 32.7 percent shooting by the Purple Aces.
Besides outshooting Evansville, Drake controlled the boards on Sunday, outrebounding the Purple Aces 44-27.
With only five regular season games remaining, postseason play is forefront for the Bulldogs.
“Our team’s goal is to finish in the top half of the conference, and with five games left, that’s quite possible,” Stephens said. “We want to win the conference.”
Before the State Farm MVC Championship opens on March 8, though, the Bulldogs look to focus their attention on the practice court with two main goals in mind.
“One (goal) is to continue to get better on the defensive front,” Stephens said. “The other is to improve our offensive consistency. We need to get better at really executing offensively. We’ve had too many turnovers, too many empty plays.”
Drake takes on Indiana State tomorrow night at the Knapp Center. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.