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.”