GAMES NOTES: The struggling Eastern Illinois Panthers will face off with the
Drake Bulldogs in a non-conference matchup at the Knapp Center on Saturday
After a 72-45 rout by Saint Louis on Wednesday, Eastern Illinois has now lost
five straight games. The Panthers are now 3-9 overall, including an 0-4
mark against teams on the road. Eastern Illinois' last victory came back on
Nov. 24 when the Panthers took down Houston Baptist 64-44 at home. Eastern
Illinois will open up Ohio Valley Conference play against Tennessee State in
its next matchup.
Drake slipped by North Carolina Central 72-69 at the Knapp Center on
Wednesday to even up its record at 5-5. The victory was the second in three
games for the Bulldogs who have yet to win back-to-back contests this year.
Drake is 2-1 at the Knapp Center with the lone loss coming against Saint
Mary's earlier this month. Drake also has its league opener next when it
travels to face Bradley.
This will be the first ever meeting between these two programs.
The Panthers just didn't have an answer for Saint Louis defensively on
Wednesday. The Billikens turned in a 57.5 percent shooting effort and
outscored the Panthers by a 27-15 margin from 3-point range and a 17-2
advantage from the charity stripe. Alex Austin scored 17 points as the only
Panther in double figures.
Even when it has played solid defense Eastern Illinois has been unable to post
wins due to weak offensive production. The Panthers are scoring an OVC-worst
56.1 points per game and shooting at a 41.1 percent clip. The Panthers allow
teams to hit on 46.5 percent of their field goal attempts while collecting a
lowly 28.5 rebounds per game. Austin (9.2 ppg) has picked up some of the
scoring slack recently with point totals of 21 and 17 in the last two games,
respectively. Josh Piper (11.5 ppg) is the only player on the roster scoring
in double figures on a more regular basis, while Sherman Blanford provides the
only other scoring average above eight points.
With the game tied 66-66 with 2:23 remaining Drake scored back-to-back baskets
to take a 70-66 lead against North Carolina Central. The Bulldogs then hit a
pair of free throws in the final minute and didn't allow NCC to hit on three
shots from beyond the arc in the final 30 seconds. Seth Vendeest scored 19
points and grabbed five rebounds.
Drake has had much more success on the offensive side of the ball than Eastern
Illinois. The Bulldogs are scoring 76.4 points per game which ranks third in
the MVC and 52nd nationally. Drake has been victim to some high-scoring
efforts by opponents though, as the Bulldogs allow 73.7 points per game and
are victims of a -5.4 margin on the boards. Ben Simons (15.3 ppg) is the top
scoring option. The 6-foot-8 forward spreads the floor and really relies on
his shots from 3-point range. VanDeest (11.9 ppg), Richard Carter (10.4 ppg)
and Jordan Clarke (9.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) are other consistent scoring options.
There are far too many offensive options for the high-scoring Bulldogs for
Eastern Illinois to hope to keep up with. Drake should win easily at home.