Even without Kavion Pippen, Drake may be the best matchup for SIU's men's basketball team in the entire Missouri Valley Conference.
The Bulldogs (7-7, 1-0 MVC) upset Bradley 66-64 and bring the top-scoring offense in the league at 78.6 points per game. Three starters average double figures, led by preseason all-conference first team guard Reed Timmer (18.8 points per game), who averages over 19 a game against SIU for his career.
Drake's three senior guards, Ore Arogundade, Timmer and De'Antae McMurray, combined for 57 of the Bulldogs' 88 points in their four-point win in Des Moines Jan. 18. Drake made 12 of 27 from the 3-point line in that win, but faces a bit different defensive ballclub in the Salukis (9-5, 1-0) today at SIU Arena.
With the return of forward Thik Bol, who is not expected to start but expected to play, SIU can still play several guards 6-4 or bigger against Drake's five-out offense. The Salukis held Northern Iowa to 38.9 percent from the field (21 of 54) Thursday night in their first win in Cedar Falls, Iowa, since 2003.
Drake made 7 of 18 from the 3-point line in the win over Bradley and overcame 16 turnovers with some big buckets late.
"There's a reason they're one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. They just play wide open," SIU coach Barry Hinson. "They spread you, they drive you. They shoot 3s quick. They've got four or five guys that have the green light to shoot it any time they want. I think that's really dangerous."
SIU has beaten Drake three straight times at the arena and leads the overall series 33-10 in Carbondale. But, the Salukis may be without starting guard Armon Fletcher (flu) and backup forward Rudy Stradnieks (flu).
"They gotta guard us. We expect to see multiple defenses, probably some zone. They haven't shown that, but it's conference play now," Hinson said. "We expect these guys to be doubled, maybe some zone, and it's also going to come down to how well we shoot the ball."
SIU shot it well against Northern Iowa when the Panthers tried to sink in on Pippen, who still scored a game-high 14 points. The Salukis, led by three straight triples from point guard Marcus Bartley, made 7 of 10 behind the arc in the second half.
"You can't sink on us. We just shot 70 percent from the 3 in the second half against Northern Iowa, so, you can't sink on us," Hinson said. "You have to make a decision on what you're gonna do, and, hopefully, we've gotten to the point where we can take advantage of those scenarios."
Scouting the Drake Bulldogs
Hometown: Des Moines
Coach: Niko Medved (7-7 at Drake, 69-77 overall)
Leading scorers: G Reed Timmer 18.8 ppg., G De'Antae McMurray 11.4 ppg., G Graham Woodward 10.7 ppg., F Nick McGlynn 10.1 ppg.
Leading rebounders: F Nick McGlynn 5.1 rpg., G C.J. Rivers 5.1 rpg.
Notes: Medved was the coach of the year in the Southern Conference after leading Furman to the league title. ... Drake has made 10 or more 3s in a game six different times this season. Opponents have done it three times. ... Timmer, McMurray, Woodward and McGlynn have all taken over 100 shots already. SIU has four players that have taken 100, top scorers Fletcher, Sean Lloyd, Pippen and Aaron Cook. ... Backup guard Eric McGill had an MRI on his injured left hand Friday, Hinson said, and the team expects to get the results later this week. McGill has played in 10 games off the bench, and has scored 50 points. He is shooting 35.3 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from the 3-point line (10 of 28).