The Drake mens basketball team will end a 14-day break Sunday with a game at Evansville. The Bulldogs are 9-and-3, with wins over Iowa and Iowa State, heading into the Missouri Valley Conference opener. Drake coach Mark Phelps is impressed with the Purple Aces, who are 8-and-2. Evansville’s only losses are to Butler, which also beat Drake, and top-ranked North Carolina. "Looking at their non-conference schedule, they’ve proven to everyone that they’re a very good basketball team and one of the best in Missouri Valley right now," Phelps said of Evansville.

The Aces are already one win shy of matching last season’s victoy total and Phelps says the difference is toughness. "I just think that they present a challenge on every possession in terms of their mental and physical toughness," Phelps said. Evansville has yet to lose a game at home this season and Sunday’s game with the Bulldogs is the only regular season meeting between the Aces and Drake. "It’s quite a challenge, coming off the high of (beating) Iowa and the long Christmas break" Phelps says, "now having to go on the road and knowing it’s going to be tough each possession…but, at the same time, the core group of our players have been through that before and have won on the road in tough situations."

Phelps says he’s encouraged and excited about his team heading into league play. "Especially coming off that (win) against Iowa at home. We took steps forward, especially on the defensive end," Phelps said. The tip-off Sunday at Robert Stadium in Evansville, Indiana is set for 2:05 p.m.