CUTTING TO THE CHASE
Drake ninety-nine and Minnesota sixty-six. If a four-point win over Eastern Illinois four days earlier made Gopher fans uneasy, last season’s thirty-three-point loss to the Bulldogs at Williams Arena confirmed the reality of a long year. The Gophers dropped six of their next seven (Big Ten games all) with their only victory being an overtime defeat of the hapless Badgers. It was a dreadful start to covid ball.
Drake (7-3) simply took Minnesota (7-6) to the woodchipper. The Bulldogs sliced the Gophers for a 33-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. And they kept chopping until a layup with 9:20 remaining in the game pushed the lead to 42. Drake tidied up the chips from there.
Gopher fans weren’t entirely taken by surprise. Drake, after all, was coming off a close 97-103 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Bulldogs finished a reasonably successful 2020-21 season 18-12 overall and 13-5 in the MVC (2nd). Advancing to the WNIT, the Drake lost to Milwaukee before defeating DePaul and Bowling Green.
The 2021-22 version of the Bulldogs is a bit of a reboot. First, nine-year head coach, Jennie Baranczyk
, left Des Moines to revive the Oklahoma Sooners. Second, the top two Bulldog scorers from last year’s contest, Kierra Collier
(24 points), and Monica Burich
(13), also departed. For a moment I thought Maddie Monahan
, the third leading scorer with 12 points was no longer on the roster. However, it turns out that Maddie Monahan married over the summer and is now listed as Maddie Petersen
On the plus side of the Gopher’s ledger, Drake will face a Minnesota squad returning its three leading scorers from that game: Jasmine Powell
(22 points), Gadvia Hubbard
(17) and Kadi Sissoko
(12). And the Bulldogs have the additional task of defending Sara Scalia
who was unavailable last December.
Baranczyk was replaced by her longtime assistant, Allison Pohlman
. Pohlman arrived in Des Moines in 2007 and was named associate head coach in 2014. As a result, Drake’s playing style hasn’t changed much. It’s five out, quick cutting, positionless basketball with generally balanced scoring. Plus, the offense received a boost from Iowa transfer and three-point artist, Megan Meyer
. Meyer helps the Bulldogs average over 9 made threes a game (93-250).
Even after the reboot, Drake was a preseason pick for second place in the Missouri Valley Conference behind last year’s champion Missouri State. For what it's worth, Minnesota is 1-0 against MVC competition this season having previously defeated Bradley 73-54.
Allison Pohlman has suited up the same starting five in Drake’s ten games. Even so, the minutes are spread out with ten players averaging at least 10 minutes/game and no one averaging more than 26 minutes/game. With the Bulldogs averaging over 81 points per game, you must respect more than the starting five.
Like last season, Drake faces Minnesota after playing a Big Ten opponent. This time it was Nebraska. In Lincoln, it was 28-22 Nebraska at the end of one and 45-39 Huskers at the half. Drake was able to cut it to six early in the fourth quarter before the Huskers eventually put away an 89-68 win.
An aggressive man defense wore down the Bulldogs (27 turnovers) as did the post play of 6’3” Alexis Markowski (15 points and 10 rebounds). Whether the Gophers can duplicate the Huskers disruptive intensity is an open question. It’s also a necessity if they are going avoid death inflicted by a team that loves a thousand cuts.
As a sophomore, 6’0” forward Grace Berg
was named MVC Newcomer of the Year (Berg had transferred from Missouri). She was also named to the All-MVC first team after leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 16 points/game. This season she is averaging 11 points/game.
As a sophomore, 6’3” forward Maggie Bair
was last season’s MVC Sixth Player of the Year. This season averages 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. She’s doing this in 16.4 minutes of playing time.
Adding some juice and 12 points per game to the starting lineup is Iowa transfer Megan Meyer.
The 5’8” guard is the leading three-point shooter 22-57.
Last season, as a senior, Maddie Petersen
was First Team All-MVC. The 5’8” Petersen has started almost every game for the Bulldogs in her previous four years. You’d have to be Ali Patberg to bring more on court experience. She brings her passing acumen back to Des Moines for a fifth season.
The experienced starters are joined by highly recruited freshman, Katie Dinnebier
. The 5’8” Dinnebier was Iowa’s 2021 Miss Basketball. In her first start Dinnebier nailed the game winning three to defeat Creighton 82-79. That’s a brilliant way to introduce yourself. She also leads Drake with 41 assists and 20 steals.
SOME BENCH PLAYERS OF NOTE:
The 6’3” freshman, Anna Miller
who played for Rochester Mayo scored 17 points to lead Drake over Creighton. Her season high was 18 (7-7 from the field) against an undermanned Northern Illinois team which the Bulldogs held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
The 6’0” sophomore forward, Courtney Becker
, was named to the MVC’s All-freshman Team. This season she has led Drake in rebounding averaging 6.1 a game.
6’1” senior forward Allie Woolridge
averages almost 20 minutes and grabs almost 6 rebounds per game.
5’9” junior guard, Sarah Beth Gueldner
, is not hesitant to launch threes.
Drake and Minnesota have played 15 times with the Bulldogs holding a 9-6 edge. 12 of the matchups occurred between 1979 and 1988. Minnesota won in 2003 and 2004 which were the last games before the current home and away series.
DRAKE RECORD (7-3)
Creighton 82-79, @ Nevada 77-75, (N) San Francisco 84-60, (N) Idaho 83-66, Longwood 104-82, Simpson 101-57, Northern Illinois 96-44
South Dakota 46-61, Iowa State 76-98 and Nebraska 68-89
Maggie Bair Last Six Games:
Grace Berg Last Six Games:
|5’9”||G||Jr||Sara Beth Gueldner||11.4||3.1||0.6|