• Hunter Phillips

BeBlue Preview - Valpo & Loyola

Updated: Feb 4

Drake prepares for Des Moines Hometown Team Weekend.

The Bulldogs will be sporting special 'Des Moines Hometown Team' alternate uniforms on Friday night.

The Scoop on Valparaiso:

Drake (13-6; 5-2 MVC) returns to the Knapp Center this weekend to close out the first half of Missouri Valley Conference play against Valparaiso and Loyola.

The Crusaders (11-7; 3-4 MVC) defeated Loyola in thrilling fashion last Friday in their lone conference contest, 66-64. Valparaiso erased a 13-point, fourth quarter deficit to jump past the Ramblers at home. The Crusaders' two previous wins in conference play came on the road, taking down in-state foes Indiana State and Evansville. In fact, six of the teams' wins this season have come away from the Athletics Recreation Center. Valparaiso went 8-3 in their non-conference schedule which included an impressive seven-game winning streak.

Led by second year head coach Mary Evans, Valparaiso was selected to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll. The Crusaders return three starters from a team that compiled an 8-24 overall record and went 4-11 in league play. Valpo ranks eighth in the Valley in scoring (67.1 PPG) and sixth in defense (64.7 PPG). A season after breaking their program record in three-pointers made, the Crusaders remain the top three-point shooting team in the conference making 8.4 three's per game. On the flip side, opponents are shooting just 26.0% from downtown against Valpo, the best mark in the conference. Speaking of defense, Valparaiso leads the conference in steals (10.5 SPG) and turnover margin (+2.3). Six players have nabbed 20-or-more steals on the year.

Senior Grace Hales leads the Crusaders in scoring, averaging 12.1 points per game. The Cromwell, IN native is tied for the team lead in three-point field goals made (29) and leads the conference in free throw percentage (91.3%). Hales scored a team-high 18 points last season when Valpo traveled to Drake. Redshirt junior Addison Stoller scores 11.0 points per game and averages a team-high 5.4 rebounds per game.

Other Players to Watch:

Shay Frederick - Sophomore guard is third on the team in scoring (9.2 PPG), is third in the conference in assists per game (4.3) and tied for third in the league in steals per game (1.8). Last season, Frederick became the first player in program history to garner All-MVC Freshman Team honors.

Carie Weinman - Transfer from Denver University has made her mark this season after sitting out last year. Weinman averages 8.2 points per game (4th Valpo), is tied with Grace Hales for the most three-pointers made (29) and is tied with Shay Frederick for the team lead in steals (32).

Friday night will mark the ninth all-time meeting between Drake and Valparaiso (Drake leads series 8-0). The Bulldogs are carrying a 14-game home winning streak into the Des Moines Hometown Team Weekend. Tip-off from the Knapp Center is at 6:00 P.M. Friday night's broadcast will air on 1350 ESPN and on the Drake Learfield IMG College Sports Network on TuneIn.

The Scoop on Loyola:

Following Friday night's contest, Drake will host Loyola on Sunday afternoon.

The Ramblers (13-5; 4-3 MVC) have notched conference victories over Southern Illinois, Evansville, Indiana State and Illinois State. Loyola opened their season with nine-straight victories before falling in a tight battle against then 16th-ranked DePaul at Gentile Arena (finished 9-2 in non-conference play). Loyola suffered their first road loss on the season last Friday at Valparaiso (8-1 road record).

Led by fourth-year head coach Kate Achter, Loyola was selected to finish seventh in the MVC Preseason Poll and are one-of-two Valley team's to return all five starters from last season. The Ramblers return 11 total letterwinners that accounted for 96% of the team's scoring from a squad that finished 13-18 and went 6-12 in conference play. Loyola ranks fifth in the Valley in scoring (69.9 PPG) while ranking second in scoring defense (61.9 PPG). The Ramblers have held their last six opponents to 70 points or less. Loyola has been stout on the glass, ranking second in rebounding margin (+8.6).

Junior Abby O'Connor leads Loyola in scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.1 points per game (10th MVC) and 8.1 rebounds per game (4th MVC). A First Team All-MVC selection last season, O'Connor is one of seven active players in the conference with over 1,000 career points. Sophomore Allison Day rounds out the double-digit scoring for the Ramblers, averaging 12.7 points per game. Day ranks fifth in the Valley in field goal percentage (53.3%).

Other Players to Watch

Janae Gonzales - Sophomore guard averages 9.1 points per game and leads the team in three-point field goals made (44). An All-MVC Freshman Team selection last season, Gonzales scored 12 points, all of which came from behind the arc, in the Ramblers meeting at Drake last season.

Ellie Rice - Junior from Austin, Texas is fourth on the team in scoring (8.4 PPG) and second on the team in rebounding (5.4 RPG).

Tip-off from the Knapp Center is slated for 2:00 P.M. on Sunday. The broadcast will air on 1350 ESPN on you can find the game on the Drake Learfield IMG College Sports Network on TuneIn.

Last Time Out:

Drake split a pair of tightly contested road games this past weekend in Illinois. The Bulldogs defeated Illinois State in overtime to begin the road trip, 69-67. Friday night's game was tied 11 times and totaled 22 lead changes. Four players scored in double-figures in the contest, led by senior Becca Hittner's 16 points. Sara Rhine compiled her fourth double-double of the season, third in league play, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Brenni Rose tallied 11 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Junior Maddie Monahan was the final Bulldog to score in double-figures, totaling 10 points. Four of those points came in clutch moments during overtime.

Less than 48 hours following their first overtime contest of the season, Drake faced another challenging opponent in Peoria. Bradley entered last Sunday's in sole possession of first place in the Valley and was on a seven-game winning streak. The Bulldogs were unable to erase a second half deficit and fell just short in a 77-76 loss to the Braves. Seniors Becca Hittner (29 PTS) and Sara Rhine (16 PTS) led Drake in scoring.

Postgame Reaction:

Other Notes:

  • Becca Hittner surpassed 600 career rebounds over the weekend. The former Dowling Catholic standout is chasing another milestone. 2,000 career points. Hittner sits just 96 points shy of that historic mark.

  • Sara Rhine scored in double-figures in both contests this past weekend. Rhine has now recorded double-figure scoring performances in 52-of-the-last-53 games. The Eldon, Missouri native has scored in double-figures in 101 career games.

  • Hannah Fuller has recorded 2+ RPG and 1+ APG in five-straight games. Fuller dished out a season-high four assists in Sunday's contest at Bradley.

  • In her last five games, junior Maddie Monahan has dished out 26 assists (5.2 APG) to just eight turnovers. The Silver Lake, Minnesota native has nabbed 1+ STL in six-straight contests.

  • Brenni Rose distributed six assists in each game last weekend. The senior from Shawnee, Kansas has 10 games this season with six-or-more assists and has tallied 100 assists on the year.

  • Drake tallied over 20 assists in both games this past weekend. The Bulldogs have tallied 20-or-more assists in 13 games this season.

Next Up:

The Bulldogs will be back in the Knapp Center to open the second half of league play next weekend. Drake hosts Southern Illinois on Friday and Missouri State on Sunday. You can find both radio broadcasts on 1350 ESPN or online on the Drake Learfield IMG College Sports Network on TuneIn.

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