Drake looking to make a move in MVC standings

February 1, 2012 7:15 PMComments Off

Photo: Alex Masica

After an emotional week that saw Drake earn its biggest win of the season, it’s back down to business for the Bulldogs, as the team takes on Missouri State this Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Knapp Center.

Drake (13-9, 6-5 MVC) took on Indiana State (13-9, 4-7) on the road last night. The Bulldogs defeated the defending State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship winners 79-64 in their MVC opener at the Knapp Center on Dec. 28, 2011.

Three days later, however, the Bears (13-10, 6-5) defeated Drake 72-61 in Springfield, Mo. Missouri State shot 60.4 percent from the field in that game.

But this is a rejuvenated Drake team that is coming off a 93-86 triple-overtime win over Wichita State, bumping the Shockers into second place in the MVC.

The Bulldogs lost to No. 12 Creighton, which is in first place in the MVC, on Jan. 25, 77-69.

This Drake team has seen the emergence of senior point guard Kurt Alexander, who has scored in double figures in six of his last eight games heading into yesterday’s contest. This team has also seen the emergence of redshirt freshman Jeremy Jeffers, who scored 11 points off the bench against Wichita State and has contributed solid minutes during Drake’s run to third place.

“The fans are just crazy this year,” Jeffers said. “The student section has done a great job this year…it’s just a great atmosphere. I love playing here at Drake with this great community behind us.”

Drake was tied with Missouri State and Illinois State for third place in the MVC heading into yesterday’s action. The Bears took on Wichita State while the Redbirds battled Creighton.

Missouri State won the regular-season MVC title last year, and it boasts last year’s Larry Bird Player of the Year award winner in senior Kyle Weems. Weems is averaging 16.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season, which is good for sixth and fifth, respectively, in the MVC.

Sophomore Rayvonte Rice had 19 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in his last outing against Wichita State. Junior Ben Simons added a career-high 29 points in that contest.

Rice (17.3 points per game) is third in the conference in scoring, and Simons (16.2 ppg) is fifth. Drake’s one-two punch will be crucial if the Bulldogs want to lock up a top-three seed for the 2012 State Farm MVC Championship.

“Ben (Simons) and Rayvonte (Rice) continue to be probably the best combination of wings in our league,” head coach Mark Phelps said after Drake’s loss to Creighton.

Phelps also said that Drake’s sixth man is an essential piece to the team’s success.

“This is a great venue,” Phelps said about the Knapp Center. “This is a great building. Fans are right on top of you…we love our home court. We love our fans.”

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