by KENDALL HUNT
Drake women’s basketball collected two more wins over the break, defeating the University of Maine, as well as the nationally recognized team of Auburn.
The women’s team is now 6-2 overall at the start of their highly anticipated season, and is looking to maintain an impressive record for the year.
In the second day of the Gulf Coast Showcase, Drake cruised by Maine 94-62. Maine struggled with shooting throughout the game, and the Bulldogs capitalized on this.
Drake grabbed the lead early, led by Hittner and Rose with three-pointers. Hittner scored a season-high 30 points for the Bulldogs, helping the team maintain an admirable 55.9% shooting percentage on the floor.
The Bulldogs finished the first quarter with a 25-15 lead.
As the second quarter progressed, Rhine stood out for her play down low in the paint, collecting 12 points by halftime.
“We all had each other’s back and I think that gave everyone the confidence to shoot the open shot and just go for it during the game,” said sophomore Kierra Collier. “Everyone gave everything they had and trusted each other, our system and our coaches.”
Maine’s had a 14-point run in the third, but it was short lived. Drake quickly countered with a run of their own, and the bench had a record 34 points scored.
Sarah Beth Gueldner also set a career-best of the season, hitting three three-pointers and collecting nine points overall. The Bulldogs’ win over Maine is the first in three meetings.
“We knew they were a quick, athletic team that really lengthened the court defensively,” said senior Becca Hittner. “I think overall we did a good job of staying steady when they pressed and being able to pass through it to get some really good shots on the other end. Defensively, I thought our posts did a nice job of making it tough for them down low.”
Then, on Sunday, playing for the fifth place championship for the Gulf Coast Showcase, Drake battled against the esteemed Auburn team.
Sara Rhine was a clear stand out in the game, racking up 22 points for the Dogs. Rhine proved to be a crucial player in the last minutes of the game, knocking down two needed free throws with less than 10 seconds left on the clock.
These baskets provided Drake the necessary lead to collect a win against the Tigers.
Sophomore Maggie Negaard also played well, scoring a career-high 15 points. She was a significant contributor in closing Auburn’s third-quarter lead, knocking down 7 of the 11 points for Drake’s 11-0 run that helped carry the team to the lead in the final quarter.
“She hit some huge shots and made some big plays that really shifted the momentum our way when we needed it,” Hittner said.
The last 8 minutes of the game were tense, however. Auburn went up 72-66 despite Drake’s run in the third.
Rhine and Hittner’s free throws, as well as Gueldner’s three-pointers, saved Drake, allowing them to tie up the game. Again, though, the lead changed when Auburn scored another three-pointer.
While Auburn had high energy, the Drake team remained unfazed and bounced back with two layups and a three from Hittner.
Again, Rhine proved crucial as she rebounded a missed three by Hittner in the final minutes of the game, and knocked down two free throws to put Drake up.
With the final free throws, Rhine led her team to a 83-82 victory over the Tigers.
“I think what stood out this game for us as a team was our competitiveness and togetherness,” said Collier. “There were so many big hustle plays that people made individually that helped us win, and I think when Auburn went on their run our team responded and stayed together.”
Overall, the game was back-and-forth, with over 10 lead changes and consistent, high-percentage shooting.
Even still, despite the Bulldog’s 11-point deficit in the third quarter, the team rallied back with points down low and free throws to defeat Auburn.
“As the season continues I’m really looking forward to seeing how our team continues to compete and grow,” said Collier. “I think as a team we have so much more in us and Jennie is going to continue to push us and get us to where we want to go.”
Drake returns home on Thursday, December 5 at 11 AM to play Waldorf University. This game – the annual “Pack the Knapp” celebration – features many activities for local elementary and middle school students.