STORY BY ANDREW BEALL
The Drake women’s basketball team kicked off the season with its lone exhibition game on Sunday. The Bulldogs defeated Upper Iowa, 112-63.
Drake came out on fire, scoring 60 points in the first half, shooting 55 percent from the field.
A huge contribution came from sophomore Lizzy Wendell, who scored 17 points in the first half and finished with 29 to go along with her eight rebounds.
“It was fun. We got the ball moving, and I got some open looks and I hit them,” Wendell said. “It was fun just playing and getting back on the court for the start of the year.”
Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk was ecstatic about Wendell’s performance.
“Lizzy is one of those special players, and I think she was ready for it to be game day,” Baranczyk said. “She’s a player that’s infectious. When she’s like that and she’s smiling, there aren’t many better.”
The second half saw the Bulldogs build a lead of 49 points as they scored seemingly at will, hitting seven 3-pointers.
Offensively, the Bulldogs looked like a well-oiled machine as they amassed 26 total assists, with a game-high six assists coming from sophomore Caitlin Ingle. Ingle also poured in 11 points.
The Bulldogs displayed their depth, as all players were able to score, with five scoring in double digits.
Sophomore Cortni Rush was brilliant for the Bulldogs off the bench, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds. The contribution from the bench was huge for the Bulldogs as their bench outscored Upper Iowa’s bench, 39-8.
“I love the depth of our team,” Baranczyk said. “We could play Lizzy for 40 minutes or Kyndal (Clark) for 40 minutes, but I like that we don’t have to do that, and I’d like to continue to have confidence in our depth.”
This game was not only the freshmen Bulldogs’ first taste of college basketball, but also the realization of a lifelong dream.
Freshman Becca Jonas let Bulldog fans know she had arrived, putting up a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds in her first game donning the Bulldog uniform. For Jonas, however, the numbers weren’t the most important thing.
“I was just sitting when they were announcing us, and I was kind of taken back by where I actually was,” Jonas said. “It just kind of hit me all at once, and it’s what you’ve been waiting for since the summer.”
Jonas was not the only freshman to contribute Sunday.
Freshman Maddy Dean scored seven points while pulling down four rebounds and freshman point guard Paige Greiner scored four points and dished out four assists.
Baranczyk was pleased with how her young players handled their first taste of Bulldog basketball.
“I think they all got to play through some stuff, with Becca Jonas not too bad obviously with a double-double in her first performance,” Baranczyk said. “I thought she was great and poised.”
Drake’s freshmen guards impressed with their playmaking ability.
“Maddy Dean had some great looks,” Baranczyk said. “I think that she is going to continue to get better and having three assists was huge. Paige Greiner did some nice things setting people up and had no turnovers.”
This exhibition provided a gauging point for the Bulldogs to see where they are heading into the regular season.
“I thought it was a great start because it was our first time in our uniforms with the lights on this season, and having 26 assists was great,” said Baranczyk.
“I also thought it was good in the sense that we were exposed in some areas we need to continue to work on, and those are the reasons you play these kinds of games.”
Baranczyk thought the exhibition pointed out some positives, but also some negatives that the Bulldogs need to address before the regular season opens this Friday.
“Obviously the rebounding is going to be huge,” she said. “If we can find a way to improve that, we can get a lot better.
“I liked how we changed the tempo with the energy that our seniors Carly Grenfell and Cara Lutes brought. So some major positives in some areas and again, some areas we just need to keep working on,” Baranczyk said.
The Bulldogs return to the Knapp Center Friday night as they take on South Dakota at 7:05 p.m., before heading to Iowa State on Nov. 20 for their first road game of the season.