GAME NOTES: Still in search of their first win since November, the Eastern Illinois Panthers will step into Johnson Arena to tangle with the Morehead State Eagles in Ohio Valley Conference play.
Eastern Illinois has suffered eight consecutive losses since topping Houston Baptist on Nov. 24. The Panthers have failed to crack 60 points in any of their last seven contests, as double-digit losses have become the norm under first-year head coach Jay Spoonhour. The Panthers, who are winless in seven true road games this season, will wrap up a season-long five-game road swing tonight.
Morehead State is also guided by a first-year coach in Sean Woods, who led Mississippi Valley State to the NCAA Tournament last season. Woods' Eagles opened their OVC schedule with a 68-64 triumph over SIU Edwardsville on Thursday night, marking their second straight victory. MSU has won six of eight at home this season.
EIU holds a 22-11 lead in the all-time series, although the Panthers have not beaten MSU at Johnson Arena since Jan. 27, 2007.
The Panthers came out strong in the opening minutes of Thursday's contest, but things quickly got out of hand when EKU went on a 16-2 run en route to a 35-18 halftime cushion. EIU tightened up its play in the second half, but the damage had already been done as the Colonels led by as many as 20 with 17:37 to play. Morris Woods shot 6-of-7 from the field and finished with a team-high 15 points off the bench for the Panthers, while Josh Piper scored 10 in defeat. It was the third time this season Woods has scored in double figures coming off the bench, although with the team struggling to find wins, he has certainly earned starter's minutes. Woods (8.2 ppg) currently ranks eighth in the OVC in free throws attempted and has led the Panthers in scoring four times this season. Piper is the only EIU player averaging double figures with 10.6 points per game.
The Eagles also boast only one player averaging double figures in Milton Chavis, a 40-percent shooter from beyond the arc (19-of-47) who is putting up 12.6 ppg. While the Eagles may lack a true go-to scoring option, they have plenty of depth as nine different players are averaging at least 5.3 points. And even after losing NCAA all-time rebounding leader Kenneth Faried to graduation, MSU is still a solid +3.6 in rebounding margin this season. On Thursday night, the Eagles rode a huge 44-23 advantage on the boards to a four-point victory over SIUE. Chad Posthumus did his best Faried impersonation, collecting a game-high 19 rebounds. In the first half alone, MSU held a 28-9 edge on the boards, including a 15-3 advantage on the offensive glass. Chavis netted a team-high 16 points in the win, followed by Angelo Warner with 14 points and Drew Kelly with 12.
Coach Spoonhour did not exactly step into a national powerhouse when he took the job at Eastern Illinois. However, his Panthers have hardly even been competitive in most games so far this season, and that is likely to continue here as they wrap up a brutal road trip.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Morehead State 79, Eastern Illinois 59
01/05 10:35:15 ET
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