Beaver men open IIAC tournament against Knights

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Cole Darrow flares past Nick Webber of Wartburg College the last time these two teams met on Feb. 11 in Siebens Fieldhouse. Thursday night's winner will advance to the IIAC championship on Saturday night. / Photo by Mark Schafer

Riding a 10-game home win streak and a 12th conference title in 19 years, Buena Vista has their sights set on an outright sweep of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this year.

Tonight the first challenger to the IIAC conference throne will be Wartburg. Buena Vista beat the Knights twice this season during conference play. Last year Buena Vista put an end to the Knights' bids at a conference title in the opening round of the IIAC tournament a season ago.

This tournament opener will be different though as the Knights are gunning to continue their string of upsets. Wartburg entered the IIAC tournament as the No. 5 seed.

For their first game they had to travel to Pella to take on defending champion, Central College, in the first round. There, fueled by a second half comeback, the Knights defeated Central 77-71 to move on in the tournament. Now the Knights find themselves in the semi-finals and a chance for revenge over the past three seasons.

Buena Vista was granted the luxury of one extra day of practice before having to play. Finishing the regular season with an IIAC-best record of 11-3 the Beavers were able to rest on Tuesday night. Not only do they get to rest they also have the luxury of playing at home where they have been unbeatable throughout the long IIAC season.

In addition to winning the IIAC the Beavers are playing for just a little bit more starting later tonight. If the Beavers win the tournament they will be guarneteed a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament.

Before the Beavers go dancing though they still face the tough product of the Knights tonight.

Wartburg is led by two players that are equally dangerous. The first is guard Jordan Cannon.

Cannon has lived up to the images created by his last name with several long range shots this year. Unlike a cannon though, his long range shots are concentrated on one area of play.

Shooting just over 35 percent from three point land, Cannon likes to control the tempo of the game for Wartburg and get their offense going. When he brings in the ball for the short range shots, Cannon is a much cleaner 48 percent shooter and workes his way around the net with jump shots.

The reason that Cannon is more adept at taking jump shots rather than bringing it in for a layup is because of the other star for Wartburg.

Clay Cook is a mean looking rebounder for the Knights. Throughout the IIAC season Cook has been able to post up against some of the taller players in the league and punish them on the scoreboard. Averaging almost nine rebounds a game, Cook is a dominate glass presence who dares opposing offenses to go after him.

Although he is not very tall, especially for a center, just six foot five, Cook uses his height as an advantage. He is a squarishly presence in the paint which he uses to sneak out of being boxed out to feast on loose balls around the rim.

In the last game against Wartburg, Buena Vista found a way to quiet the senior center for Wartburg though. Cook has a knack for getting into foul trouble by getting a little overzealous in his protection of the key.

In the first half of the Feb. 11 game between the Knights and Beavers, Cook was called with three early fouls which caused him to be more of a spectator than player.

If Cannon wants to get into a three point shootout with the Beavers he is going to have to be ready.

Buena Vista is led by sharpshooter Nick Clark in the three point shooting range. Clark has lit up many of the IIAC schools this year with his three point shot. At home, Clark's three point shooting is among the best where he feeds off the energy and can go on long, sometimes half-game long runs of hitting nothing but net.

Leading the Beavers in scoring is Cole Darrow. Darrow enters the tournament averaging 15.1 points a game for the Beavers. Although Darrow is not known for a three point shooter, he is a fearless guard that is just as comfortable pulling up for a shot, as challenging the lane for a layup.

Helping Darrow clean up the glass and secure offensive possessions is Kennedy Drey who is averaging a double-double per game.

Drey's 11.7 rebounds per game help Buena Vista on both sides of the floor while his 14.2 points per game have aided the Beavers in their run through the IIAC this season.

The winner of tonight's game might just be the winner in the rebounding category.

The semi-final tip-off is at 7 p.m. inside of Siebens Forum at BVU. From there the winner will play in the finals on Saturday.

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