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DES MOINES, Iowa - The Drake University men’s basketball team plays its final home game of 2012 on Saturday when it hosts Eastern Illinois in the first meeting between the two programs. Tipoff at the Knapp Center is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.

Drake wraps up its homestand after defeating North Carolina Central on Wednesday evening, 72-69, behind Seth VanDeest’s season-high 19 points and a back-to-back baskets in the final minute to preserve the win. VanDeest is averaging 18.5 points on 14-of-19 shooting in the last two games and has been a continued focus for the Bulldogs’ offense.

“We knew it would take him some time to get his rhythm and timing back,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said of VanDeest. “He continues to be more and more comfortable and that’s a big factor for us on the offensive end. On defense, with his size and experience, it definitely helps us as well.”

EIU, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, is 3-9 after falling to Saint Louis on Wednesday evening. The Panthers are in their first season under head coach Jay Spoonhour. He is the son of legendary former Missouri State head coach Charlie Spoonhour.

The Panthers average 56.1 points per game and are led by Josh Piper’s 11.5 points per game in an extremely methodical offense that will challenge the Drake defense on every possession.

“Eastern Illinois runs a series of precision offenses,” Phelps said of Saturday’s opponent. “We’re going to have to be really alert on defense at all times. The offense is in the family of a Princeton offense and they’re one of those teams with really good skill sets and shooters.”

Drake is averaging 76.4 points per game to rank in the top 50 nationally in scoring. Ben Simons leads the squad with 15.3 points per game after hitting four three-pointers in Wednesday’s win. The senior continues to move up the Drake career scoring ranks with 1,075 points to rank 19th. As a team, the Bulldogs average 9.1 three-pointers per game, the fifth most in the nation and are converting on 41.9 percent of its three-point attempts, the third highest rate in the nation.

Following Saturday’s game, the team jumps right into Missouri Valley Conference play at Bradley on Jan. 29.

“We want to build momentum heading into the break,” Phelps said of this final non-conference test. “We want to play well on both ends of the court, build on our last victory and be in attack mode for 40 minutes.”

 


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