Drake (6-5) at Bradley (8-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 29, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carver Arena (11,060) -- Peoria, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Drake 4-1, Bradley 6-1. Away Record: Drake 1-1, Bradley 2-1. Neutral Record: Drake 1-3, Bradley 0-2. Conference Record: Drake 0-0, Bradley 0-0. Series Record: Bradley leads, 79-56.
GAME NOTES: The Drake Bulldogs travel to Carver Arena in Peoria to take on the Bradley Braves, as both squads open Missouri Valley Conference play on Saturday night.
Drake begins its conference slate after defeating Eastern Illinois, 74-56, in its last outing before the holiday break. Micah Mason, in just his second career start, dropped in a career-high 19 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting with six assists. The Bulldogs shot 59.1 percent from the 3-point arc in the win.
Drake enters Saturday's clash as one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, ranking second nationally at 43.5 percent, and fourth with 9.5 3- point attempts per outing. Ben Simons leads Drake with 15.2 points per game, and he is knocking down 40.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Seth VanDeest also averages double figures for the Bulldogs at 11.7 points per game. Jordan Clarke leads the squad in rebounds with 8.8 per tilt.
The Bulldogs won both meetings last season, posting a 62-55 victory in Peoria on Feb. 15, 2012 and a 65-49 triumph in St. Louis on March 1. Bradley is 47-18 all-time at home against Drake, and the Braves will be trying to avoid dropping consecutive home games to the Bulldogs for just the fifth time in series history.
In their last outing, Bradley fell to Portland 57-55, on Dec. 23 in the consolation final of the Las Vegas Classic. Dyricus Simms-Edwards scored a game-high 15 points, but while the senior guard hit 6-of-12 attempts from the field, the rest of his team combined to shoot just 11-of-42 (.262). Senior center Will Egolf had an open look at a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but his potential game-winner hit off the front iron giving the Braves consecutive losses for the first time this season. Bradley shot a season-low 31.5 percent from the field and was outrebounded, 42-31.
Walt Lemon, Jr. and Tyshon Pickett lead the Braves with approximately 12.5 points per game apiece, with Pickett adding 7.2 rebounds per game. Bradley has limited each of its last four opponents to fewer than 60 points in regulation. Bradley had not held four straight foes to fewer than 60 points in regulation since a six-game streak in 1997-98. Bradley is allowing 61.7 points per game on 39.8 percent field goal efficiency. Continuing in that defensive vein, Bradley enters the weekend ranked fourth nationally with 11.33 steals per game. In addition, the Braves hold onto the ball at the offensive end, averaging just 12.0 giveaways per game, allowing the team to rank second nationally with 0.94 steals per turnover.
While Bradley has been playing strong defense and should have the advantage down low, expect Drake to continue to drain its shots from 3-point range and grab their conference opener and their fourth straight from the Braves.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drake 74, Bradley 71
12/29 10:32:15 ET