Road swing looms as Drake faces talented Detroit squad
Photo: Joel Venzke
Coming off a season-opening 96-66 win over William Jewell, the Drake Bulldogs (1-0) will now hit the road to take on the talented Detroit Titans (1-1) on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Calihan Hall.
Detroit will provide a measuring stick for the Bulldogs. The Titans finished 22-14 last season and won the Horizon League tournament to earn an NCAA Tournament bid where they fell to Kansas in the opening round.
Detroit won its opening game of the season over Northern Michigan, 88-53, and lost to St. Johns 77-74 on the road on Tuesday as part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. The Titans are led by 6’3” point guard Ray McCallum.
“(Ray) McCallum at the point guard, I mean, he’s a terrific player and he’s a really, really complete point guard in that he can distribute, he can score, he can shoot threes, so he makes it challenging,” said head coach Mark Phelps. “Certainly they have a veteran team. They’ve got scoring all over the floor, they have athleticism, they really pressure the ball and they have a confidence about their team being an NCAA Tournament team from last year. They have a high-level of confidence, and they’re playing at home.”
McCallum earned Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year honors and a Wooden Award Top-50 selection. McCallum led the Titans in scoring (15.4), assists (4.0) and steals (1.6) per game.
The Bulldogs will have to find a way to slow down McCallum and control the Titans’ explosiveness.
“I don’t think you go into the game thinking one guy is going to shut him (McCallum) down. We’re going to have to play several guys on him, but I think everybody on the floor, all five guys, have to be aware of him,” Phelps said. “He clearly makes their team go. We’re going to have to be aware of where he is at all time and provide help for whoever is guarding him.”
Execution and rebounding are two areas the Bulldogs will need to improve on against the Titans.
“Obviously it’s going to be a good game,” said senior Ben Simons. “We’re going to have to handle the pressure. They have a lot of athletic players. We’re going to have to execute and go in there and rebound. That’s something that we know we have to work on, and that’s something that we’re going to have to do if we want to win the game.”
This will be the 20th meeting between the Titans and the Bulldogs with Drake leading the all-time series 10-9. However, the Bulldogs are only 2-7 against the Titans in Detroit and 1-4 in Calihan Hall.
The two teams last met last year on Feb. 19 at the Knapp Center, when the Bulldogs edged the Titans 84-76 in their BracketBusters match-up.
The Bulldogs will look to continue their hot three-point shooting. Drake has made 30 three-point attempts in its last two games (one of them was an exhibition game) and posted identical 15-of-24 performances.
Drake defeated Division II William Jewell on Saturday (Nov. 10) on the strength of a combined shooting effort of 55.9 percent from the field. Simons led the Bulldogs with 25 points and three rebounds. Junior Richard Carter finished with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists on 4-of-4 from three-point range in his Drake debut.
Despite the Bulldogs’ impressive offensive performances, there is still work to be done on the defensive end, and they’ll have to up their effort against the Titans.
“Obviously, our defense. We are still working on some things, but every team is at this point of the season. The season’s new, we are still working on our defenses, rebounding, but we’ve got to really improve on everything. You can’t be satisfied after two games with what we are doing,” Simons said. “Obviously, we’re putting up great numbers on offense but there’s still more things we could do as far as running the floor hard, getting out in transition, getting more easy baskets.”
Phelps said the Bulldogs are hoping fifth-year senior Chris Hines will be ready to make his season debut after missing the last two games. Hines had his knee scoped in October. Redshirt sophomore Karl Madison had his knee scoped on Tuesday and his return date is still unknown.
The Bulldogs will need all hands on deck to fend-off McCallum and the explosive Titans.