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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Bulldogs carry momentum on road after big weekend

Photos: Connor McCourtney

After a pair of wins in a four-game home stand, the Bulldogs will take to the road this weekend, facing Bradley (11-11) tonight and this year’s MVC heavyweight Northern Iowa (17-5) on Saturday.

Drake’s victories over Evansville last Thursday and Southern Illinois last Saturday were the type of pick-up the team needs to compete for a spot in the top half of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Head coach Amy Stephens said those wins were a byproduct of the energy the team showed last week.

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“It started in practice with our effort,” Stephens said. “Our overall intensity and preparation was so much better last week.”

Even the gray squad, a group of male students who compete against the Bulldogs in practice to help scout opponents, recognized the change in intensity.

“There was definitely a lot more energy in practice last week,” senior gray squad member Dan Behrens said. “You could tell they were pretty motivated and driven in practice, making the gray squad work extra hard.”

Stephens said that keen focus the team had last week has continued into the early practices in preparation for the Bradley game.

“There’s always a carry-over effect—when you prepare well, you usually play well,” she said. “We need to carry this momentum into our game [tonight].”

Bradley also has momentum coming into tonight’s matchup.

The Braves will return to their home court after a big win over preseason MVC favorite Missouri State on the road. It was also the team’s first MVC road win so far this season and it halted Missouri State’s eight-game win streak. Drake was one casualty of that streak.

Bradley has a strong veteran crew on the court. Juniors MacKenzie Westcott, Hanna Muegge and Latasha Hollingshed have emerged as key offensive threats this season. The Bulldogs will also have to focus on defending MVC Player of the Year Casey Garrison, as she again proved her dominance with a 10-0 run against the Bears.
“That win makes our game big because we’ve got that opportunity to vie for the fifth spot in the conference,” Stephens said. “For us to get into that, we’re going to have to figure out how to win games on the road.”

Drake won the last meeting with Bradley 68-64 on Jan. 13. The Bulldogs started strong and held a 40-22 lead over the Braves at halftime. But, as is the pattern for Stephens’ team this year, one half didn’t reflect the other.

Bradley fought back in the second half and a pair of free throws by freshman Angela Christianson clinched the win in the last five seconds.

“We’re striving for consistency every day,” Stephens said. “We’re looking to put 40 minutes of basketball together. And, when we do that, I think we’ll be successful.”

Consistency will be key for the Bulldogs in their second game this weekend. The Panthers also defeated Missouri State last week, 67-59.

Valley leader Northern Iowa will test the Bulldog defense and challenge core scorers in senior Kristin Turk and junior Rachael Hackbarth.

The veteran-led Panthers will not only have experience and winning momentum on their side but also have fans. Saturday night is Northern Iowa’s annual “Pink Zone” night that will raise awareness for breast cancer. Much like Drake’s Hoops 4 Hope game last weekend, the Panthers should expect increased attendance.

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