Southern Illinois (13-16) at Drake (14-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Knapp Center (7,002) -- Des Moines, Iowa. Television: Mediacom. Home Record: SIU 9-4, Drake 9-5. Away Record: SIU 3-11, Drake 4-7. Neutral Record: SIU 1-1, Drake 1-3. Conference Record: SIU 4-12, Drake 7-10. Series Record: SIU leads, 51-29.
GAME NOTES: The regular season wraps up for the Southern Illinois Salukis and Drake Bulldogs, as the two will tip it off in a Missouri Valley Conference clash at the Knapp Center.
Southern Illinois is playing some of its best basketball of late and enters the contest with wins in four of its last five outings, including Wednesday's 63-57 victory over Northern Iowa. The only loss in that stretch came on the road at MVC-leading Creighton. Still, the Salukis have not recorded a road victory since mid-December and are just 3-11 as the visiting team this season.
Drake has also put together a late-season push, as the team rebounded from a four-game losing streak by winning three straight. Most recently, the Bulldogs traveled to Indiana State on Wednesday and came away with a 67-56 victory. They were able to take advantage of a Sycamores squad that was without second- leading scorer Manny Arop due to a suspension.
Drake notched a 61-56 road win over SIU earlier this season. The Bulldogs have won nine of the last 11 meetings, although the Salukis still lead the head-to- head series, 51-29.
With Wednesday's victory over Northern Iowa, the Salukis matched last season's MVC win total. Defensively, they held UNI to 38-percent shooting from the floor and forced 16 turnovers. Desmar Jackson scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, which helped SIU to a 39-24 halftime lead. Jeff Early joined Jackson in double figures with 14 points, and that duo combined for 15 rebounds and zero turnovers in 69 minutes of floor time. That has been a fairly steady trend for the Salukis this season, as Jackson (15.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Early (12.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg) are the top two scorers and rebounders. They are also the team's only two players averaging double figures and are both active on the defensive end for the Salukis, who are +3.4 in turnover margin.
Ben Simons is the only double-digit scorer for Drake, averaging 14.4 ppg. Simons hardly ever leaves the floor (34.8 minutes) and is among the MVC's most dangerous perimeter shooters, where he is connecting on 40.4 percent of his attempts (72-of-178). Four other Bulldogs are averaging at least 9.2 points on the season. Like their counterpart, the Bulldogs are also coming off a strong defensive performance as they held Indiana State to 34.8-percent shooting from the floor. Richard Carter led the way with 15 points, followed by Seth VanDeest with 14. Simons tallied 10 points and seven rebounds, while Jordan Clarke (9.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg) finished with 10 points and 10 boards for his 10th double-double of the season and fifth in the last eight games.
The Bulldogs have had SIU's number of late, and that is not likely to change here on their home floor. Points figure to be at a premium in this matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drake 59, Southern Illinois 54
03/02 10:43:38 ET