STORY BY MIKE WENDLANDT
A battle between two potent offenses opened the Drake women’s basketball team’s season Friday night at the Knapp Center as the Bulldogs fell to South Dakota, 83-78.
For Drake, the loss kicked off a tough non-conference schedule, as the Bulldogs faced the Summit League champion and NCAA tournament team from last season in the Coyotes.
“We have a brutal non-conference schedule, and it will help our players grow,” said Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk after the loss.
Leading the way for Drake were preseason all-conference players Lizzy Wendell and Kyndal Clark who, at different times in the game, took over the scoring on the court.
Wendell led all scorers with 25 points while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists.
Clark, who fueled a comeback early in the second half with a personal 8-0 run, added 17 points of her own.
The top three-point shooting team in the Missouri Valley Conference from last season picked up where they left off, as Drake hit 10 3-pointers in the game.
The Bulldogs focused on getting freshman forward Becca Jonas touches down low early, which opened the floor for the Drake shooters. Wendell hit open look after open look to put Drake ahead early in the first half.
“Becca did a nice job in her first start, and I loved the balanced scoring that we had in the game,” Baranczyk said.
However, South Dakota clawed its way back with some hot outside shooting, especially from guard Raeshel Contreras, who finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.
The Coyotes challenged Drake’s outside shooting performance, hitting 11 of their own shots from beyond the arc.
South Dakota outrebounded the Bulldogs, 45-35. The Coyote guards dominated the glass, pulling in 23 boards between their three starting backcourt players.
“We were exposed in some areas, and we need to learn somehow, someway to rebound,” Baranczyk said.
South Dakota took a 46-37 lead into halftime, and never let up, hitting big shots down the stretch.
Drake crawled back behind Clark’s shooting, and the play of point guard Caitlin Ingle, who was all over the court for the Bulldogs.
Ingle finished with 11 points and six assists. Baranczyk was pleased with her play on the night.
“Caitlin’s a really good player,” Baranczyk said. “Has a great basketball IQ, and it’s going to be really fun to see her growth this season. She’s got the potential to be a really great point guard.”
Drake took the lead, again, with just under five minutes left on a pair of free throws from Clark. From there, it was a back-and-forth battle down the stretch.
The crowd erupted as Ingle hit a jump shot with 1:17 remaining to give Drake a 78-77 lead.
But, a dagger three from Contreras with 19 seconds left gave South Dakota the late advantage. Three more free throws were converted to seal the win for the Coyotes.
Despite the loss, Baranczyk remained optimistic for the season ahead.
“We have a great tradition here, and this team will have their own legacy. I’m proud to be a part of it,” Baranczyk said.
The Bulldogs hit the road for the next two games. They travelled to Ames to take on Iowa State last night.
The Bulldogs will visit SIU- Edwardsville on Thursday, before returning to the Knapp Center on Nov. 23 to take on Wisconsin. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.