How good can the Drake women’s basketball team be?
The Bulldogs set a Missouri Valley Conference tournament record Friday afternoon with a 49-point margin of victory, 89-40, and could have set a tournament point record if they didn't run down 30-second clocks on their last four or five possessions.
Yet, coach Jennie Baranczyk says her team “has got to work to get better.” That it “didn’t start out fantastic,” despite outscoring the Valparaiso Crusaders 23-6 in the opening quarter.
But, if this was a taste of what is to come in today’s semifinals and possibly Sunday’s MVC championship game at the TaxSlayer Center, Drake is showing a great chance to repeat in the Quad-Cities.
Top-seeded Drake (24-7) led Valpo (13-18) by 28 at halftime, 46-18. It was 60-24 with 4:17 to go in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs did not permit a point until the quarter horn, an 18-0 run. The six points scored by the Crusaders were tied for third lowest in that period in tourney history.
The margin of victory eclipsed the previous record of 37, set by Illinois State over Indiana State in 2010.
“The roller coaster (in the third quarter) was more than it was in the first quarter,” said Valpo acting head coach Justin Rees, filling in for coach Tracey Dorow, who was on medical leave. Then again, he added, “Nothing seemed to go in the entire game. … When you don’t score and you don’t shoot well against a team of Drake’s caliber, this is what can happen.”
The Bulldogs put four in double figures, led by a pair of 19-point games from Maddy Dean and Sara Rhine. The oddity of that is that neither are in the starting lineup.
“We embrace our roles,” said Dean, who also had team-highs of three assists and two steals in 23 minutes. “This team is really deep. It’s unique.”
Becca Hittner, the MVC Jackie Stiles Player of the Year, played 21 minutes and scored 18 points, hitting 11-of-11 free throws.
Becca Jones, who played a team-low 13 minutes, had a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Bulldogs looked as if they had a shot at the tournament record of 98 points, set in 1983 by Drake, but Baranczyk called off the 'Dogs in the final minutes. Their 89 points is the sixth most in the tourney history.
“This team is never interested in records,” the Drake coach said. “It is never going to try to score a million points. They really don’t care about that.”
Valpo, in its first year in the Valley, was led by Caitlin Morrison, with 11 points and seven rebounds.