Drake Preview — 2-07-2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

On Wednesday Loyola welcomes Drake to Gentile Arena, where Loyola boasts a 10-1 record (8-0 when MVC Player of the Year candidate Clayton Custer is guiding the Ramblers). Drake, fresh off doing what no other team has been able to do this year– defeating Bradley in Peoria– come into Gentile Arena with as many conference wins so far this year as they’ve had in the past two full seasons combined. Drake’s seven MVC wins are their most since 2012-13, and there are still six games left. The Bulldogs have three home games left against teams in the bottom of the standings, and a realistic chance at their best season since their Top 25 ranking and trip to the tournament in 2007-08.

Two weeks ago, Loyola and Drake faced off in Des Moines with both teams tied for first place in the conference at 6-2. With the score tied at 51 on a big three-pointer by Drakes’ Nick McGlynn and the Knapp Center rocking, Loyola went on a 22-2 run over the ensuing seven minutes, holding Drake without a field goal. The Ramblers won 80-57, and have held on to first place with a 2-1 record since. Drake has lost two out of their last three.

The Bulldogs are using the same starting lineup of 6’8” junior forward Nick McGlynn and four guards: 6’1” senior Reed Timmer, 6’2” senior C.J. Rivers, 6’3” senior Ore Arogundade, and 6’2” senior De’Antae McMurray. Graham Woodward provides big scoring off the bench. Six-ten forward Casey Schlatter, 6’11” center/forward Kory Kuenstling, and freshman guard Noah Thomas also get significant playing time off the bench.

The Bulldogs, with their quick guards, free shooters, and long-range bombers, seems like a team that depends of their offense, but not so. In Drake’s three recent losses against Loyola, Evansville, and SIU, the Bulldogs gave up an average of 78.3 points per game. In their win against Bradley on Saturday night, they held the Braves to less than 20% shooting on threes and only 37.3% from the field. In fact, Drake is 7-0 when the hold the opposition to under 45% field goal percentage, and 0-5 when opponents shoot better than 45%.

Meanwhile, the Ramblers shot 60.9% against Missouri State on Saturday, and now lead the nation in home field-goal percentage at 55.1%, ahead of Michigan State at 54.7%. Beginning with Loyola last game against Drake, Clayton Custer is averaging 20.3 points per game, has only missed 12 out of 44 field goal attempts overall, and is shooting 83.3% on two-point shots. For the season, the 6’1” Custer is shooting 56.1% from the field, which would be pretty good for a frontcourt player.

The season is ticking down. Wednesday’s game is one of only three home games left to play for the Ramblers, and with five teams within two games of the top spot, every game (especially home games) is vital. While Loyola is playing Drake on Wednesday, third place Bradley will be playing at Northern Iowa. And on Thursday night, the short-staffed, second-place Salukis (winners of five straight games despite essentially having only six players) will be playing at resurgent third-place Illinois State.

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents … df?id=5840

Drake game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video: NBC Sports Chicago / http://www.espn.com/watch/_/id/3273188/ … basketball

Stats: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=189603

Vegas odds: Pending