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Drake women’s basketball team opens season with back-to-back wins

THE DRAKE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM is now 3-0 after an 85-73 win over the Iowa State Cyclones. In the huge win, Drake shot 44.8% from the field, 42.9% from 3-point range, and 77.8% from the free throw line. PHOTO BY Sarah Fey | staff photographer

Now that college basketball has started across the nation, all pressure is on the Drake women’s basketball team coming off of a Missouri Valley Conference title and a NCAA March Madness appearance last season. 

With pressure to follow up an outstanding season, returning Bulldog stars like forward graduate student Grace Berg, junior forward Anna Miller and senior forward Courtney Becker have been ready to take to the court to prove that last season wasn’t just a fluke. 

To win their ticket into the NCAA Tournament last season, the Bulldogs had to beat the Belmont Bruins to secure a MVC title. The Bulldogs did just that with a blowout win over the Bruins 89-71. 

Their next challenge was to win their first game in the NCAA tournament, and this game would prove to be a nailbiter. After losing that opening game 83-81 against the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals, in the first round, the Bulldogs knew that they would need to replicate their efforts in the 2023-24 season to prove that they could get back to the tournament and put their program on the board. So far, the team has managed to pull forward early in the 2023-2024 season. 

“Winning the conference and making it to the NCAA Tournament was a huge confidence booster. It made us hungry for more, almost set an expectation for us this season,” guard Ava Hawthorne said. “I have learned that pressure is a privilege, and being able to compete at a high-level on any stage is always a big opportunity for us. We now know what it takes to make it to March Madness, and our goal is to make it back there again with this year’s group.” 

Ahead of the season-opener, guard Katie Dinnebier was one of 25 mid-major players named to the 2024 Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award watch list presented by Her Hoops Stats. 

“A steady hand at point guard for Drake’s constant motion offense, Dinnebier put up an impressive combination of scoring and passing efficiency in her sophomore season,” the Her Hoops Stats press release wrote.

In their first game of this season, the Bulldogs took on the St. Thomas Tommies in the Knapp Center on Monday, Nov. 6 with the hope of obtaining a strong first win. With all hands on deck, Drake was able to secure an early lead and keep it throughout the game, with clean communication and ball movement throughout the span of the game. 

Berg led the Bulldogs with 18 points, three rebounds and two assists, Brown followed her with 17 points and Dinnebier trailed closely at 13 points and two assists. Drake ended up winning 94-69 after the four quarters concluded, moving the team into a 1-0 spot to start off the year. This wouldn’t be the team’s only game of the week, though. 

On Thursday, Nov. 9, the team traveled to take on the Saint Louis Billikens on their home court. Both teams wanted to win, as it was Saint Louis’ first game of the season, and the Bulldogs first away. Despite not being at home, Drake worked hard to make sure that no matter what happened, the team put its best foot forward into the game, and the Bulldogs did just that. 

Dinnebier led the Bulldogs with 18 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Berg was right behind her at 17 points, nine rebounds, one assist and a steal. With the starters combined, the group put all 78 points on the board for Drake, leaving no room for any other players to make any moves. The Bulldogs ended up beating Saint. Louis 78-66 to add another win to Drake’s record of 2-0.  

“Starting the season 2-0 is a great feeling to have,” Hawthorne said. “Over the summer, we have worked hard to be in this position and to connect as a new team. We are focused on one game at a time, and we will continue to chip away at our non-conference schedule.” 

The team will soon be taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes to defend their 3-0 record in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m.

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