CARBONDALE — Drake's men's basketball team always seems to have shooters, led by senior guard Reed Timmer, a preseason all-conference pick.
This season, in coach Niko Medved's first season, the Bulldogs have turned into distributors, and their best inside player is a 6-foot-8, 223-pound face-up forward. As a result, they're off to their first 4-0 Missouri Valley Conference start since they surprised everyone and won the league championship in 2007-08.
Drake (10-7, 4-0) has had to fight to earn the top spot in the standings. The Bulldogs beat Bradley by two points in their league opener, topped SIU 70-67 when Armon Fletcher's potentially-tying 3-pointer at the horn went off the window and off the rim, and beat Indiana State by three on the road. Drake hammered Illinois State by 25 points in Des Moines behind 28 points from Timmer, a 6-1 lefty who is averaging a career-best 19.4 points per game.
Medved challenged Timmer to look to be more of a passer in his four and five-guard lineup. His 50 assists this season are six off what he had for all of 2016-17. Guards De'Antae McMurray (52 assists) and C.J. Rivers (54) also have 50 or more assists for the top-scoring offense in the Valley (78.4 points per game).
"I think (Timmer's) done that, but so have the other guys," Medved said. "They've bought into playing together, to sharing the ball, so it's been a real good transition, and I think Reed's got a really nice balance of staying aggressive, looking for his shot, but continuing to find others."
Forward Nick McGlynn (10.8 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) has been one of the biggest benefactors of Drake's collaboration. One of the most improved players in the league, the junior has more than doubled his scoring average from last season and gives Drake a tough matchup as an undersized, mobile 5-man.
"He's anticipating a little bit better and he's staying out of foul trouble, and when he's on the court, he's been able to be productive for us," Medved said. "He rebounds. He plays with a great motor, and can finish inside. He's been huge. We're not a big team. When he provides us a presence and is playing well, we're really a different team."
Drake, already with the most wins in four years, can equal last season's five Valley wins with a victory at Valparaiso Wednesday night.
Notes: Valparaiso University announced guard Joe Burton, who had been suspended since December for "not meeting academic requirements," was no longer enrolled in the school on Monday. Burton was the Crusaders' second-leading scorer at 11.5 points per game in 10 starts. ... Loyola played its first game with a full roster in weeks when junior guard Clayton Custer returned from an ankle injury in Sunday's 56-50 win over Northern Iowa. The Panthers fell to 8-8 overall and 0-4 in the Valley with the loss.