Drake (4-1) vs. Northern Arizona (2-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Save Mart Center (16,182) -- Fresno, California. Television: None. Home Record: Drake 2-0, NAU 1-0. Away Record: Drake 2-1, NAU 1-3. Neutral Record: Drake 0-0, NAU 0-0. Conference Record: Drake 0-0, NAU 0-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Drake Bulldogs and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks meet at the Save Mart Center on Saturday evening for the first time as the Fresno State Classic continues.
Drake's tournament experience started off in excellent fashion on Friday night, as it downed the hosts Fresno State by an 84-74 final. The win for the Bulldogs kept up with their early season trend of success, as their only loss in five tries has come in a difficult road test against Saint Mary's (67-63).
NAU has not gotten off to the type of start that it had hoped for, as it has won just two of its first six games. After snapping a three-game losing streak with an 83-59 win over San Diego Christian on Nov. 23, the Lumberjacks opened their stay in this event with a 61-50 setback versus Cal State Bakersfield on Friday night.
The Lumberjacks actually found themselves up by eight at the half of their opening-round game but quickly lost control after intermission en route to the 11-point setback. It was a poor shooting night, as they drained just 32.7 percent of their tries from the field, which included an 0-of-11 showing from 3-point range. Aaseem Dixon was able to overcome the struggles of most of his teammates, shooting 6-of-12 from the floor for 15 points. Max Jacobsen was also solid with 13 points, while Gaellan Bewernick hauled in 10 rebounds. On the season, NAU pours in less than 70 points per game on just 41.8 percent field goal shooting (including 26.8 percent from the 3-point range), and it allows opponents to shoot nearly 47 percent from the floor. Jacobsen (17.3 ppg) is off to a hot start, making field goals at 60.3 percent efficiency. Quinton Upshur (14.5 ppg) and Dixon (13.0 ppg) are also impressive scorers, while Bewernick (6.7 ppg) leads the team with 7.7 rebounds per contest.
The Bulldogs built a sizable first-half lead only to see it disappear late in the game, but they were able to bounce back down the stretch with a 12-2 run to seal the deal. They were nothing short of outstanding from the field in the triumph, as they made 56.1 percent of their field goal tries, including 9- of-21 from 3-point range. They were paced by a career-best performance from Gary Ricks, who shot 9-of-15 from the floor (4-of-8 from beyond the arc) en route to 25 points while also adding five assists, five rebounds and two steals. Richard Carter (21 points) was also outstanding, while Aaron Hawley chipped in 12 points. Drake is no stranger to impressive point totals, as it scores 80.0 points per game (+14.2 scoring margin) on just shy of 50 percent from the field this season. Carter (22.8 ppg) leads the scoring attack thanks largely to an active start from the free-throw line (33-of-39). Ricks' career night on Friday allowed his season average to jump to 13.6 points per game, and he also leads the team with 18 assists.
The Lumberjacks and the Bulldogs are currently trending in opposite directions, and if Drake can continue its hot start from the floor, it shouldn't have much of a problem dismissing an inconsistent NAU squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drake 86, Northern Arizona 73
11/30 10:35:40 ET