Column by Austin Cannon
If you’re not paying attention to the Drake women’s basketball team now, it’s time to start.
While the men are struggling to escape the Valley cellar, the Bulldog women are playing their best basketball in the most important month of the regular season.
February is the month to prove yourself in college basketball. It’s the month leading up to the conference tournament, where teams either take advantage of their last chance to improve their conference standing or implode and lose all postseason aspirations.
The Bulldogs chose the former.
So far this month, Drake is 4-1, scoring an average of 71.6 points per game while only giving up 63.
The lone loss came to a then-undefeated Wichita State team on Feb. 14., 70-61. In reality, Drake is only a few buckets removed from being 5-0 this month.
The team that began the Valley season 1-6 is an afterthought. Drake evened its record to 12-12 with a strong 79-69 win over Missouri State on Sunday.
In the win, junior Kyndal Clark dropped 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting.
If her points equaled doughnuts, she’d have three full boxes of Krispy Kremes to enjoy along with two extra to give to the poor Missouri State girls who had to guard her. I mean, you have to feel bad for them.
A mortal lock for First Team All-MVC honors, the question now is if she can earn Player of the Year honors.
The numbers back it up.
Her 18.5 points per game are tops in the Valley. She splashes 3.5 threes a game. That’s easily the best in the MVC and tied for first in a little thing called the United States of America.
Clark also ranks in the Valley Top-10 in steals, minutes played and is tied for 12th in assists.
Clark isn’t Drake’s only threat. Lizzy Wendall and Caitlin Ingle have formed perhaps the most effective freshman duo in the conference.
Wendell, a five-time MVC Newcomer of the Week, averages 14.5 points a game in her first season out of Blue Springs, Mo. She’s the second-leading freshman scorer in the Valley, perfectly capable of dropping over 20 on any given night.
Since taking over point guard duties, Ingle has distributed the ball well, 2.3 assists per game, and provided a third effective scoring option to compliment Clark and Wendell.
A defense might be able to contain one or maybe even two of them, but I would argue that it could contain all three.
Junior Liza Heap and sophomore Ashley Bartow round out the starting lineup, often providing the key rebound or put-back.
The valuable, but often overlooked, Alyssa Marschner and Carly Grenfell coming off the bench makes for a team no one wants to face.
I should probably also mention that the entire starting lineup and Grenfell will be back next season.
I bet the rest of the MVC is glad to hear that.
The Bulldogs have five regular season games left, the last three of which are at the friendly confines of the Knapp Center. Then it’s the MVC Tournament, where, depending on these last five games, the Bulldogs could be seeded as high as No. 3.
Winning five of six is impressive, but the confidence the wins bring is nearly as valuable.
The team is confident. It thinks it can beat anyone, which, this month, has been mostly true.
A No. 3 or No. 4 seed would put Drake in a prime position to make a run at the title, and the way this team is playing right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.
So sit back and enjoy these last five games. I’m going to try and track down some doughnuts.