After three losses in its last four games, Drake's men's basketball team has fallen out of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference with eight games to play.
The Bulldogs (12-11, 6-4 MVC) are 8-1 at home, however, and will try to stay two games back of Loyola (18-4, 8-2) against SIU (14-9, 6-4) Tuesday night in Des Moines.
"Sometimes it's getting back to doing what you do well," Drake coach Niko Medved said. "Seasons have ebbs and flows. Teams can make minor adjustments, but I think it's always, usually, within what you've practiced from Day 1. Clearly we've had some bad stretches here, but we've had some good stretches."
The Bulldogs got five players into double figures and forced Evansville into 20 turnovers Saturday, but committed 18 themselves in a 77-73 loss. Guard Reed Timmer, the second-leading scorer in Drake history, had five of them, and went 3 of 7 from the field. Timmer went 3 of 11 in the Bulldogs' 80-57 home loss to Loyola Wednesday.
Drake is still the highest-scoring team in the Valley (74.7 points per game) because it surrounds 6-foot-8, 223-pound forward Nick McGynn (11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds per game) with several shooters. The Bulldogs made 10 of 25 from the 3-point line against Evansville and leads the league with 204 triples this season. They shoot 37.8 percent behind the arc, third-best in the Valley.
SIU presents some difficult matchups with Drake's guards, beginning with trying to keep them off the free-throw line. The Salukis shot 17 in their road win at Missouri State Saturday and a season-high 31 in their home win over Indiana State. When teams have laid back, SIU has hit 24 of 47 3-pointers during its current three-game winning streak.
"They've got a lot of athleticism. They put the ball on the floor, and they're shooting it well," Medved said. "They got a lot of guys making shots on the perimeter. They put your defense in a lot of tough spots. We've gotta be really connected, and have the mentality of trying to keep those guys in front of us, but challenging shots."
The Salukis hope to slow down McGlynn, who made 7 of 13 from the field in Drake's 70-67 win at SIU Arena Dec. 31, 2017. McGlynn had 17 points and seven rebounds.
"They have five, six, seven guys on the floor at all times that can score," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "They spread ya. They make you play small ball. McGlynn's played really well for them. They cause difficult matchups for everybody. They're very similar to Loyola that everybody on the floor is an offensive threat at any time."
SIU leads the series against Drake 57-33.
Scouting the Drake Bulldogs (12-11, 6-4 MVC)
Hometown: Des Moines
Coach: Niko Medved (12-11 at DU, 74-81 overall)
Leading scorers: G Reed Timmer 17.8 ppg., F Nick McGlynn 11.3 ppg., G De'Antae McMurray 11ppg., G Graham Woodward 10.3 ppg.
Leading rebounders: G C.J. Rivers 5.9 rpg., F Nick McGlynn 5.2 rpg.
Notes: SIU center Kavion Pippen comes off a 17-point, 7-rebound performance at Missouri State Saturday. The Salukis' third-leading scorer is 17 of 28 from the field during their three-game winning streak. ... Drake averages more than 78 points a game at home this season. ... The Bulldogs struggle to come back. They have not come back from a double-digit deficit to win in a single MVC game this season. Drake has faced a 10-point deficit, or more, in all four of its Valley losses so far (at Valparaiso, at Northern Iowa, at home to Loyola and at Evansville). ... Drake hasn't swept SIU during the regular season since the 2011-12 season, when the Salukis set the school record for losses (23). The Bulldogs beat SIU 75-68 in overtime and by 15 in Des Moines, 78-63.