The Drake University men’s basketball team begins the second half of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule Wednesday evening at Southern Illinois.
The first meeting between the two teams this season is scheduled to tipoff at SIU Arena at 7:05 p.m. and will be aired via radio in Des Moines on KRNT 1350-AM.
The Bulldogs are 9-11 this season and 3-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference after going 1-1 last week with an upset win over Creighton and a road loss to Missouri State. Drake has won three of its last five games and has one MVC road win this season, at Illinois State.
Southern Illinois is 8-12 overall and 1-8 in MVC contests with losses in each of its last four games. Of the Salukis’ eight wins, four have come at SIU Arena this season.
“Every game in our league has proven to be a challenge and we expect nothing different from Southern Illinois,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said. “I feel like they’re a team that is much better than their record. They play extremely hard and while we’ve had some success there, we expect it to be a very, very tough game. We need to play better on the road than we did at Missouri State.”
Senior Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) led Drake last week with a 19-point performance in that loss at Missouri State after a 13-point game with a pair of critical free throws in the win over Creighton. Simons is also the team’s top scorer at 14.4 points per game on 43 percent shooting.
SIU is paced by a pair of newcomers in transfer Desmar Jackson with 16.3 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting while freshman Anthony Beane has averaged 9.8 points per game.
“Desmar [Jackson], we know a little bit about him from playing at Wyoming, and his numbers are terrific,” Phelps said. “Beane is playing not like a freshman so we’ll have our hands full there with those two.”
As a team, SIU averages 65.2 points per game but has scored just 54.5 points in its last four losses while the Bulldogs are third in the league in scoring at 72.5 points per game and playing at the fastest pace in the league.
“We like to play fast, but you have to temper that with taking good shots,” Phelps said. “You want to be in attack mode, but you still have to evaluate what is a good shot. We want to play fast, but we also want to be able to get the ball inside and score around the basket.”
Scoring from the perimeter has not been an issue, however. The Bulldogs are 10th in the nation in three-pointers per game with 8.9 and 20th in three-point percentage at 38.7 percent. Freshman Micah Mason (Natrona Heights, Pa.) has been the team’s top marksman to date, converting on 50 percent of his attempts.
Following Wednesday’s contest, the Bulldogs return home to host Indiana State on Saturday, Feb. 2. Tipoff against the Sycamores is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. with the contest being aired on Fox Sports Midwest.