The Drake University men’s basketball team returns home Saturday to host in-state rival Northern Iowa. Tipoff against the Panthers is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with the game, the first of three straight home games for the Bulldogs, being televised regionally on Mediacom MC22.
In conjunction with the women’s basketball team’s ‘Hoops 4 Hope’ game against Missouri State at 4:05 p.m., the men’s basketball coaching staff will be wearing pink neckties in support of the ‘Hoops 4 Hope’ initiative to raise awareness and funds in the fight against breast cancer. Fans who attend the women’s game can also purchase a general admission ticket to the men’s game at a discounted price of $5.
On the court, the Panthers travel to Des Moines on the heels of a 61-54 win over Creighton on Wednesday to improve to 15-11 overall and 8-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“We’re really excited to play tomorrow, in front of our home crowd and against an in-state rival,” Drake senior Ben Simons said.
UNI is led by led by three players in double-digit scoring with Anthony James’ 12.2 points per game leading the way. Seth Tuttle and Jake Koch add 10.5 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. UNI allows just 60.7 points per game with only one MVC opponent scoring 70 or more points against the Panthers. Drake’s has scored 70 or more points in 18 of its 25 games this season and five of its last seven outings.
Additionally, Drake remains one of the most dangerous teams in the nation from the three-point arc, converting at a 39.8 percent clip to rank 14th nationally in three-point accuracy.
The Bulldogs return home looking to snap a three-game losing streak as the team stands at 11-14 overall and 5-9 in the MVC heading into the final four conference games of the season.
Senior Ben Simons (Cadillac, Mich.) has found his scoring touch of late, averaging 18.3 points per game over the last three games including a season-high 27 points at Evansville. Against Wichita State, he scored 15 points to move into 10th in career scoring at Drake with 1,294 career points. The senior leads Drake in scoring at 14.9 points per game this season and is 15-of-25 from the three-point arc in his last four games.
“I think he’s playing the best he has in his senior year,” Phelps said of Simons. “He’s coming down the home stretch and wants to play his best. I think he’s being more aggressive.”
In the lane, Jordan Clarke (Rockville, Md.) has matched Simons’ production with five straight games in double-figure scoring and a pair of double-doubles in that span to rank second in the MVC in rebounding with 8.3 boards per game this season.
“He has been the epitome of dealing with adversity in the most courageous and classy way imaginable,” Phelps said of Clarke’s career and season. “He’s always demonstrated toughness and has really come out of his shell in being a vocal leader.”
In the first meeting with UNI this season, Richard Carter (Detroit, Mich.) led the Bulldogs with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting off the bench. Carter has continued that production since moving back into the starting lineup the last four games. In those games, he is averaging 13 points and 5.3 assists per game.
Following Saturday’s contest, the Bulldogs continue their three-game homestand on Wednesday, Feb. 20 against Bradley at 7:05 p.m.