By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Drake’s narrow 68-67 road loss at Minnesota didn’t come as a surprise to University of Iowa head men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery.
“They have played like that all year,” McCaffery said in a Tuesday news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I have watched a lot of tape on them. The played well against Wake Forest and Colorado. I am impressed with their team. They have a veteran club and they’re playing that way.”
The Hawkeyes will meet the Bulldogs on Saturday at 1 p.m. (CT) in in the sixth installment of the Hy-Vee Classic in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa has won five of its six previous matchups in the classic, which is played in Wells Fargo Arena.
“We’ve lost up there, we’ve won up there,” said McCaffery. “They have all been good games. It’s a good atmosphere and I think it’s a first-class event. That’s a first-class facility in terms of everything they do and how they do it.”
Drake is 5-5 under first-year head coach Niko Medved. The Bulldogs play small, implementing a four guard-starting lineup. The Bulldogs let it fly; they average 10.5 3-point field goals and rank 13th nationally with a 42.3 3-point field goal percentage.
“They have a lot of guys making 3s,” said McCaffery. “Last night (against Minnesota) they made 12 and it was kind of an off night. You play a team that makes 15 3s; that’s going to be a hard team to beat, I don’t care who it is.”
Among Drake’s starters — four are seniors, including a fifth-year — and one junior. Four starters average double figures with Reed Timmer leading the way at 20.7 points. Penn State transfer Graham Woodward averages 11.7 points.
Iowa hold a 58-10 advantage over Drake in a series that dates back to 1909. The Hawkeyes have won five straight in the series, including both previous Hy-Vee Classic contests — 83-66 in 2013 and 70-64 in 2015.
McCaffery said sophomore Cordell Pemsl is questionable for Saturday’s game after suffering a leg contusion that required stitches in the road loss at Iowa State.
“We have had a unique start to the season,” said McCaffery. “You look at our roster and say we’re really deep, so injuries shouldn’t affect us, but they have affected this team.”
Iowa hasn’t played a regular season game at full strength this season as at least one Hawkeye has been sidelined in each of the team’s first 11 games.
Saturday’s game will be televised on BTN beginning at 1:04 p.m. (CT) with Wayne Randazzo and Shon Morris on the call.