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Drake looks to gain momentum heading into tough early-season MVC slate

Photo: File photo

As the fall semester winds down for Drake students, the men’s college basketball season heats up. The Bulldogs are 5-3 heading into tonight’s game against Eastern Michigan (8:05 p.m., Knapp Center). Including tonight’s contest, Drake has three more non-conference games in December before the start of the Missouri Valley Conference season. Here’s a look at the Bulldogs’ opponents during the month-long winter break:

Tonight, Eastern Michigan – Drake is coming off a narrow two-point win over Air Force last Saturday. The Bulldogs survived two missed 3-point attempts by Air Force in the game’s final possession to escape with the win. Eastern Michigan’s leading scorer is Darrell Lampley, who averages 16.8 points per game.

Dec. 17, @ Iowa – The Bulldogs have already notched a win against Iowa State this season, and Drake would love nothing more than to take down its Big Ten in-state rival. The Hawkeyes have been rebuilding for the past few seasons, but they are sure to put a competitive squad on the court. Drake has fared well against BCS programs this season, suffering close losses to Mississippi and Virginia in addition to the win against the Cyclones.

Dec. 21, Central Arkansas – The high-scoring Bears were 4-3 heading into last night’s contest against Henderson State. UCA has produced outputs of 107 points, 90 points (twice) and 88 points this season.

Dec. 28, Indiana State – The Bulldogs will be tested right away in MVC play when they host the defending State Farm MVC Champion Sycamores. This NCAA tournament-tested squad is led by sophomore Jake Odum, and the team is primed to make another run at the title this season.

Dec. 31, @ Missouri State – The road doesn’t get any easier for Drake. After hosting Indiana State, the Bulldogs hit the road to Springfield, Mo., to face the defending MVC regular-season champion Bears. Granted, Missouri State has lost plenty of its talent, but it still returns last season’s MVC Larry Bird Player of the Year award winner in Kyle Weems.

Jan. 3, @ Creighton – Creighton is making its way into the national spotlight as sophomore Doug McDermott continues to turn heads by filling up stat sheets each game. The Bluejays are ranked No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll this week. The preseason MVC favorite is undefeated and is rolling into conference play.

Jan. 7, Northern Iowa – If the Bulldogs find a way to beat the Hawkeyes, Drake has its first chance at defeating all three Iowa schools to capture Big Four bragging rights. The Panthers are never a push-over, and UNI would love nothing more than to avenge last season’s loss at the Knapp Center.

Jan. 10, Bradley – The Braves knocked Drake out of the State Farm MVC Championship last season in the play-in round. The Bulldogs get a shot at redemption.

Jan. 13, @ Evansville – The Purple Aces have had quite the non-conference schedule, and the team that has been “on the verge” the past couple of seasons could be turning the corner. An early-season win over Butler and games against North Carolina and Indiana will toughen this squad up for MVC play.

Jan. 15, Illinois State – This gritty Redbird squad nearly pulled off an upset against Illinois, dropping a four-point decision in the title game of the Cancun Challenge. Illinois State also defeated Rutgers in that tournament.


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