Missouri State (13-11) at Drake (13-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 4th, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Knapp Center (7,152) -- Des Moines, Iowa. Television: Mediacom MC22. Home Record: Missouri State 7-5, Drake 10-2. Away Record: Missouri State 6-4, Drake 2-6. Neutral Record: Missouri State 0-2, Drake 1-2. Conference Record: Missouri State 6-6, Drake 6-6. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 34-10.
GAME NOTES: The Drake Bulldogs play host to the Missouri State Bears Saturday at the Knapp Center with both teams searching to break above .500 in the Missouri valley Conference.
Drake suffered its third loss in four games Wednesday, dropping a 61-54 decision at Indiana State. The setback saw the Bulldogs fall to 6-6 in conference play with their worst shooting performance of the season. Drake managed just a 33.3 shooting percentage and 18 field goals with an equally poor 11-for-20 showing at the foul line. Sophomore Rayvonte Rice tallied a game-high 17 points to pair with five assists while junior Ben Simons totaled 13 points.
Missouri State endured a deflating loss at home to MVC power Wichita State Wednesday with yet another second-half letdown. The Bears shot a stifling 65.2 percent from the floor in the first half but connected on just 30.3 percent of their shots during the second stanza, blowing its sixth halftime lead of the season en route to the 74-67 loss. Kyle Weems led the Bears in defeat with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including five three-pointers. Jarmar Gulley recorded 14 points and six rebounds while Anthony Downing added 13 points as MSU lost for the second time in three games. The Bears have dropped five of seven overall.
Missouri State has won four in a row over Drake and owns a handy 34-10 lead in the all-time series. The Bears are 13-8 in Des Moines over that time with the Bulldogs' most recent win coming at the Knapp Center -- an 88-77 final in January 2010.
The Bulldogs have one of the league's most explosive scorers in Rice, who averages 17.3 points per game for an otherwise unspectacular offense. Simons isn't far behind at 16.1 ppg but the options fall steeply away from there as Kurt Alexander (8.1 ppg) and Jordan Clarke (6.2 ppg) are next in line. The imbalance leaves Drake in the middle of the MVC pack in terms of scoring, currently at 69.2 ppg. The Bulldogs do shoot an above average percentage from the field at .454 but the defense often suffers in allowing 68.3 ppg on 43.9 percent shooting. Not helping matters is the Bulldogs' 64.9 shooting percentage from the foul line -- second-worst in the conference. Curiously, Simons is the outlier in leading the MVC in free-throw percentage (88.7 percent). On the boards, Drake nearly breaks even in securing 32.7 per game to opponents' 33.4. Clarke paces the Bulldogs with 6.6 rpg while Rice adds 5.9 per contest.
The Bears also possess one of the conference's top scorers in Weems, who posts 16.3 ppg alongside a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game. The senior also paces the club in three-point shooting with 46 on 41.4 percent shooting. Missouri State also suffers in overall scoring balance, but unlike Drake, features four players averaging double figures. Caleb Patterson is currently suffering from a sprained ankle, but nonetheless stands second to Weems at 12.7 ppg. Meanwhile, Downing and Gulley post identical 11.0-point averages, with the latter also securing a solid 5.8 rpg. Downing also adds 34 triples to the mix, connecting from beyond the arc at a 36.2-percent rate. The Bears average 67.8 ppg overall and hit at a respectable 44.5 percent from the field. The defense remains a cut above, holding opponents to a mere 63.2 ppg and 40.3 percent shooting. MSU's rebounding game nearly splits even in grabbing 34.4 per contest.
The Bears need to learn how to play smart basketball coming down the stretch and capitalize on their stout defense. Drake has hit the skids of late but remains strong at home, taking Wichita State to triple overtime in Des Moines just two games back. The Bulldogs likely suffered a letdown at ISU after that performance but figure to bounce back to nip the Bears this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drake 71, Missouri State 70
02/04 10:54:16 ET