By HANNAH COHEN
Drake Women’s Basketball added nine more wins and two losses to their record over the past two months to keep dominating the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) going into the second half of the season.
While Drake was on break in December, the Bulldogs went 2-for-4 getting dubs against Bradley and Illinois State with leads of 29 and 18 over both teams. They took the two losses against top 25 teams Iowa State (20) and University of Iowa (17) in the Bulldog’s last non-conference games.
“It was a super awesome experience to be able to see where we line up with those Power 5 teams,” guard Brenni Rose said. “[Being close to getting a win against both was amazing].”
In the top 25 matches, Drake was within 9 points or under of gaining a win. They first took on Iowa State, but the Cyclones took the game 86-81. Next up was University of Iowa where the Hawkeyes won 91-82.
“It showed that we deserve to play against these teams,” Rose said. “We are a good team, not just [in our conference] but in college basketball Division 1.”
During J-Term, Drake continued to thrive in the MVC with a 5-0 record. The only two losses they took were against Big East teams, keeping the Bulldog’s .789 overall winning percentage and 1.000 conference record with only four losses on the season. Three of these five wins were away, a reminder that they can takeover any court.
“It’s hard playing teams that you only see twice a year,” Rose said. “So, in conference it’s always close games. No matter what, you play people that know you and know everything about you so it’s just super fun and almost every conference game is a rivalry.”
After beating Bradley 92-63 in Peoria the Bulldogs went to Illinois State getting an 82-64 win, both of which gave Drake plenty of leading room. Loyola Chicago came next to the Knapp and proved to be more of a challenge. The Ramblers fell to Drake 60-69, but this marked Drake’s second lowest scoring game of the season behind the Notre Dame (1) and tied with the 69-59 win against Rutgers (14).
“[Loyola] is on the rise,” Rose said. “They are bringing in a lot of new faces and we have a lot of senior leadership, but we are also trying to get underclassmen experience. We play everyone else so often that they know our tendencies.”
They finished their January homestand with a dub against Valpo 84-53 then went straight to University of Northern Iowa (UNI). UNI kept up with Drake and only trailed by 5 going into the fourth quarter. Sara Rhine, guard and 5-time MVC player of the week of this season, again led the Bulldogs and got her season high of 26 points, aiding Drake to an 88-64 win.
“[Since these teams know how we play] we have this target on our backs,” Rose said. “We get everyone’s best shot at every game so it’s fun to compete.”
On the road this past weekend the team faced Indiana State in a close 70-68 win from a strong fourth quarter and University of Evansville, extending their winning streak to seven. Along with these wins, the Bulldogs added a new addition to the team: Grace Berg, a 6-foot Mizzou transfer and Iowa native.
“It’s all brand new [so I’m looking forward to] getting super close to the girls and making friends,” Berg said. “I’ll be the best cheerleader and support for my teammates. I can’t wait for the rest of the season and postseason.”
Even though she cannot play with the team yet due to NCAA transfer rules, she said she is still thrilled to be a part of the team. Berg led the Tigers in free throws just in the first semester of her freshman year. Although she is sad to leave Mizzou, she is happy to find her new home at Drake.
“I respect the coaches and my teammates and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to play there,” Berg said. “It’s all a blessing.”
Photo Courtesy of Drake Athletics