Drake travels to the Motor City with a 1-0 record in tow after opening the season with a 96-66 win over William Jewell last Saturday as Ben Simons and Richard Carter led the Bulldogs with 25 and 19 points, respectively.
Detroit enters the contest as a projected Horizon League contender after winning the league tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament last season. The squad is 1-1 on the young season with a home win over Northern Michigan and a loss at St. John’s on Tuesday afternoon. The Titans are led by Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year, Ray McCallum and promise to provide an incredible early season challenge for the Bulldogs.
While its season-opening win proved that Drake is more than capable from an offensive standpoint, the preparation and focus remains on defending and rebounding for the Bulldogs.
“We are able to knock down shots and we are better on offense than we were last year,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said. “The emphasis right now is to continue to develop more toughness on the defensive end, and also to rebound at a high level. We are stepping it up and playing an NCAA Tournament team in Detroit.”
Saturday’s contest will also be a homecoming for three Bulldogs with ties to Michigan and the Detroit area. Freshman Robert Puleikis, a native of Lithuania, played his senior season at Detroit Country Day School and senior preseason all-MVC selection Ben Simons hails from Cadillac, Mich., where he was the 2009 Michigan Mr. Basketball runner-up. Richard Carter, who is in his first season at Drake, is a Detroit native that played at Cody High School and was an all-metro and all-state selection. In his first game at Drake, he scored 19 points after recording 10 assists in the team exhibition game.
“He's [Carter] shown the ability to run our team and create shots for others and also to make shots for himself,” Phelps said of his point guard. “I’m really happy with Rich and he gives us an extra gear on offense.”
Following Saturday’s game, the team will return to campus briefly before continuing its road swing with three games in Anaheim, Calif., next week at the DIRECTV Classic. Drake begins play at the tournament on Nov. 22 against California.