FACTS & STATS: Site: Wells Fargo Arena (16,110) -- Des Moines, Iowa. Television: Mediacom MC22. Home Record: Drake 2-1, Iowa State 7-0. Away Record: Drake 1-1, Iowa State 0-2. Neutral Record: Drake 1-2, Iowa State 0-1. Conference Record: Drake 0-0, Iowa State 0-0. Series Record: Iowa State leads, 106-65.
GAMES NOTES: One of the oldest instate rivalries in the country will be rekindled on Saturday when the Drake Bulldogs and the Iowa State Cyclones match up at Wells Fargo Arena as part of the inaugural Hy-Vee Big Four Classic.
The Bulldogs are coming off a split of a two-game homestand with a loss to Saint Mary's (88-73) and a win over IPFW (74-64) last Saturday. The victory over the Mastodons pushed the Bulldogs to an even 4-4 this season. While this game is being held in Des Moines, where Drake is located, this is technically a neutral site game. The Bulldogs are 1-2 in such games, with all three coming during the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim, California over Thanksgiving weekend. Another two-game home stint awaits Drake next beginning against North Carolina Central.
Iowa State also earned a win last time out by routing Nebraska Omaha 93-65 on the Cyclones' home floor. The Cyclones have had a relatively successful season thus far with wins in seven of 10 contests. However they have earned all seven wins at home and have yet to secure a victory in either a road contest or neutral site game. Iowa State plays just its second true road game next against UMKC.
There have been 171 total meetings between these teams which have met every season except for 1908. In those previous matchups Iowa State has collected wins 106 times although Drake has won three of the last five, including a 74-65 victory last year.
Drake never trailed and led by as many as 16 points en route to its win over IPFW. The Bulldogs shot 48.1 percent overall in the game and outscored the MAstadons 27-15 from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs also held IPFW to less than 40 percent shooting (35.6) while forcing 21 turnovers. Chris Hines was the lead scorer for the Bulldogs with 19 points, while Jordan Clarke (9 points, 11 rebounds) came a point away from a double-double.
Considering Drake sits at exactly .500, the Bulldogs have been a rather effective offensive club. Drake scores 76.9 points per game and shoots at a respectable 45.7 percent from the field. The scoring average is the third best in the Missouri Valley Conference behind Illinois State and nationally ranked Creighton. Defense has been another matter though, as Drake is allowing 72.8 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting. The Bulldogs have also suffered from a deficit on the boards (-4.3) by collecting only 31.8 rebounds per game. Ben Simons (15.5 ppg) is the top scorer on the roster. Clarke (11.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg) is a constant double-double threat. Richard Carter (10.2 ppg, 4.4 apg) and Seth VaDeest (10.2 ppg) are each scoring in double figures as well.
Iowa State easily dispatched Nebraska Omaha in a game that was pretty much over at halftime with the Cyclones leading 52-28. Iowa State connected on an even 50.0 percent of its shots from the field and turned the ball over only six times. ISU outscored the Mavericks 18-0 on second chance points and had a 45-24 edge in rebounding. Six different players scored in double figures, led by Georges Niang, who had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Scoring has not been issue at all for Iowa State which has been the ninth-best offensive team in the country (82.4). Ball movement and efficient shooting havs of a -10.9 differential on the glass. Justin Simmons (11.4 ppg) and John Karhoff (11.0 ppg) are the top scorers on the team and the only players in double figures. Alex Welhouse (7.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg) is the top rebounder in the starting lineup on a team devoid of aggressive front line players.
Denver got out to a 33-19 lead at halftime against Mercer by shooting 53.8 percent from the field. The Pioneers kept up the impressive shooting in the second half by nailing 55.6 percent of their shots. The Pioneers outscored the Bears 21-6 from 3-point range and 38-20 on points in the paint. Denver also forced 18 turnovers which it turned into 17 points. Royce O'Neale powered the offense with 22 points to go along with a team-high five rebounds.
The Pioneers don't have the same type of defensive deficiencies as Nebraska Omaha, but they have been much worse on the offensive end. Denver is scoring only 59.6 points per game and connecting on 40.6 percent from the field. Denver also struggles on the glass bringing in only 27.0 rebounds per game. Much of that is due to the undersized lineup that head coach Joe Scott puts on the floor with 6-foot-6 Chris Udofia being the biggest frontcourt player in the starting lineup. Denver has managed to limit opponents to 60.0 points per game on 46.0 percent shooting. O'Neale (15.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.4 apg) is a versatile player that spreads the floor and fills in just about every column on the stat sheet. Udofia (12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.3 apg) also contributes across the board while being the only other player scoring in double figures. Chase Hallam (9.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Brett Olson (8.9 ppg) are the only other players scoring more than five points per game.
Nebraska Omaha has a ton of experience on the road but nothing to show for it. Despite being battle-tested, the Mavericks will be at a disadvantage against Denver, with the Pioneers benefiting from having the best player on the floor in O'Neale.