IOWA CITY, Iowa – If Drake didn’t already have Iowa’s attention, it does now after dropping a one-point decision at Minnesota on Monday. The Bulldogs were a 20-point underdog.
The Hawkeyes are up next for upstart Drake (5-5) Saturday as part of the Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines (1 p.m. CT, BTN). Iowa State and Northern Iowa meet in the second game.
In addition to playing Minnesota down the the wire, the Bulldogs knocked off Wake Forest of the ACC and dropped a five-point decision to Colorado, a PAC-12 program. They’ve been starting four seniors and a junior.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes (5-6) start a junior, three sophomores and a freshman. They’ll be searching for the consistency that’s eluded them this season.
Saturday will match teams that look a lot different. The Bulldogs start four players standing 6-foot-2 or shorter. Iowa opens with four players 6-5 or taller and brings more height off the bench.
While the Hawkeyes like to work inside out, taking advantage of their size in the paint, Drake spreads out around the perimeter looking to fire from deep. The Bulldogs knock down 10.5 three-pointers per game.
Senior guard Reed Timmer (6-1, 185) leads the way for them with 20.7 points per outing. He averages 3.3 treys a contest. Graham Woodward (11.7 PPG), a Penn State transfer, De’Antae McMurray (11.6) and Nick McGlynn (10.3) also contribute double-figure scoring.
Timmer and Woodward shoot 53.2 and 44.8 percent, respectively, from behind the arc. As a team, Drake connects on 42.3 percent of its triple attempts, good for 12th nationally.
Iowa is allowing opponents to shoot just 33.1 percent on threes, which is 129th in the country. It’s giving up some easy looks of late and will be tested by the Bulldogs.
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The Hawkeyes have been off since Sunday, when they routed visiting Southern to end a four-game losing streak. They cut their turnovers down to seven in that game after giving the ball away 18 times in each of its previous three contests.
-Iowa is 4-1 in games played as part of The Hy-Vee Classic in Des Moines. The Hawkeyes beat Drake twice (’13 and ’15) and Northern Iowa twice (’12 and ’16). The Panthers handed Iowa its only defeat in the event in ’14.
-Iowa has won the last five meetings against Drake, dating back to the ’09 season.
-Iowa’s Nicholas Baer shares the Wells Fargo Arena record for most blocked shots in a single game with Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere. Baer denied a career-best six shots in Iowa’s win over the Bulldogs in ’15.
-Four Hawkeyes played against Drake in the 2015 victory in Des Moines: Baer (13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocked shots), Dom Uhl (7 points, 8 rebounds), Brady Ellingson (5 points) and Ahmad Wagner (2 rebounds, 1 block).
KEYS TO VICTORY
Drake – The Bulldogs need to hold their own on the backboards, where Iowa held a 22-rebound advantage against Iowa State, and shoot a high percentage from three-point land.
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Iowa – It really comes down to good ball movement and sharing on offense with activity and energy on defense for the Hawkeyes.
With a decided height advantage, Iowa should be able to enter the ball into the post and crash the offensive boards for easy baskets. Defensive caroms could get going a fast-break that has been missing in action for most of the season.
Drake relies on the three-ball and if it gets into the 12-15 range for makes it could spell trouble for the Hawkeyes. Misfiring will ignite Iowa’s dangerous transition game.
It feels like the Bulldogs need to do more right than does Iowa because of their physical limitations. That leads me to pick the Hawkeyes in a competitive contest.
IOWA 78, Drake 70