STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
The Drake Women’s Basketball team continued to win in conference play, sweeping two games at home this past weekend.
They defeated the University of Evansville on Friday by a score of 78-69 and Indiana State University on Sunday 76-61. Now sitting at 18-7 overall and
13-1 in the conference, the Bulldogs control their destiny going into the Missouri Valley Conference championship.
If the Bulldogs can win the tournament they will secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs got off to a rough start on Friday when they faced off with Evansville. The Bulldogs were trailing for most of the first half before clawing their way back with the help of their freshmen.
Paige Greiner hit two threes in less than a minute which gave Drake the lead. Maddy Dean added several big buckets early, scoring nine in the first.
After 20 minutes, the Bulldogs led 36-31.
“My team found me tonight, and I’m glad I was able to follow through with those points for the team,” Greiner said.
The second half featured a back-and-forth battle for the first 10 minutes as Drake couldn’t quite put away the Purple Aces. Evansville was allowed to climb back to within one possession several times, but Drake held the lead.
Embarking on a 13-2 run behind big threes from Greiner and Lizzy Wendell, the Bulldogs pulled away enough to be able to stay within their offensive flow and wear down Evansville.
Consistently working the ball Becca Jonas in the post, the Bulldogs chipped away time until the final buzzer sounded.
“This was a great, gutsy performance. Evansville is a great opponent and I’m extremely proud of this team for the way that they were able to pull out the win tonight,” coach Jennie Baranczyk said.
For the game, Wendell led the way with 24 points while Dean put up 23 to go along with 10 rebounds. Jonas also chipped in 13 along with 17 rebounds, while Greiner set a career high with 12 points on four three-pointers. The Bulldogs outrebounded Evansville by 17, a tone-setter for the game.
“It feels great to get those rebounds, but the fact that we were able to score off them was huge,” Jonas said.
The top offense of Drake faced off with the number two defense Sycamores of Indiana State in the MVC on Sunday.
The defense was in control for the first half, as Drake turned the ball over 15 times in the opening 20 minutes, but kept the game close with some strong defense of their own. At halftime the game was all square, 28-28.
Neither team was shooting exceptionally well, as Drake hit on 46 percent of their shots and Indiana State was 13 percent worse.
“Today was gut-check time,” Baranczyk said. “They rattled us a little bit in the first half, but I was happy with the way that we ended.”
In the second half Drake was able to get into a groove, getting ahead by as much as eight early on, but Indiana State fought back thanks to the strength of their bench, who ended up scoring 49 of their 61 points.
The 10th tie of the game ended at the 6:34 mark when the Bulldogs took the lead for the final time. A 13-0 run soon followed, icing the game.
Caitlin Ingle and Wendell led the charge throughout the game, but it was the play of Carly Grenfell off the bench that gave Drake the spark that they used to pull away with nine points, six rebounds and a steal.
“Carly was huge today. Crashing the boards, her energy, hitting big shots. She played like a senior. I’m glad you got to see the real Carly today,” Baranczyk said.
For the game, Wendell led the way again with 20 points, while Ingle scored 17, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out seven assists. Becca Jonas also found her way into double figures with 13 points.
“We’re going to work to get better after today and we’ll be ready for Friday,” Wendell said.
Drake will travel to Wichita State for their biggest test of the season to date, as the two top teams in the MVC will face off on Friday. Tip-off for that game is at 7:05 p.m. and it will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN3.