GAME NOTES: Missouri Valley Conference action begins on Sunday night, as the Missouri State Bears entertain the Southern Illinois Salukis at JQH Arena in Springfield.
At 7-4, SIU is off to its best start since opening the 2009-10 season with a 9-2 record. The Salukis most recently took part in the World Vision Classic in Utah last weekend, coming away with a win over Nicholls State (65-53) and losses to both UC Davis (78-70) and Utah State (70-58). Entering league play, they attempt to snap a seven-game road losing streak in the MVC.
Missouri State, on the other hand, has not had much to get excited about through the first 12 games. The season started off well enough at 2-2, but since then it was dropped eight consecutive games to fall to 2-10. The Bears traveled to Las Cruces last Saturday and dropped a 71-51 decision to the Aggies of New Mexico State.
Despite sweeping the season series last year and winning six straight games over SIU, Missouri State still trails in the all-time series, 38-32.
Southern Illinois boasts a plus-6.4 scoring margin thanks in large part to its .455 field goal percentage, but it put had one of its worst performances of the year in the 12-point loss to Utah State last time out. Not only did the team shoot just 42.9 percent from the floor, but it allowed Utah State to make a lofty 60 percent of its field goal attempts. Despite the lackluster outing, Desmar Jackson was able to shine with a season-high 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting (5-of-7 from 3-point range). Jeff Early was the only other player to score in double figures with 10 points. Jackson's stellar performance lifted his season average to 16.1 ppg, and he also helps out in other areas with 6.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg, and 0.9 bpg. Early (13.5 ppg) grabs a team-high 7.2 rpg, while Dantiel Daniels shoots an impressive 67.2 percent from the field on his way to 11.3 ppg.
Missouri State has struggled at the offensive end of the court this season, as it shoots just 37.6 percent from the floor in averaging a mere 57.4 ppg, both of which rank last in the MVC. The club's latest matchup against New Mexico State was a microcosm of the season, as it shot just 19-of-57 (including 2- of-14 from beyond the arc) while allowing the Aggies to hit better than 54 percent of their total shots. Anthony Downing was the lone starter for MSU to put together an impressive game with 17 points, while Gavin Thurman added 10 points off the bench. Downing is the team's leading scorer with 12.8 ppg, but he does son on less than 38 percent field goal efficiency. Christian Kirk (9.9 ppg) and Marcus Marshall (9.8 ppg) are the only other players with any sort of consistent production. One thing the Bears do well is take care of the basketball, as they commit just 11.2 turnovers per game for a plus-4.3 turnover margin.
The Bears will have the advantage of playing in front of their home fans in this one, but JQH Arena has been far from a safe haven for the squad this year. Although SIU has been struggling of late, a date with Missouri State should be able to cure things in a hurry.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Illinois 73, Missouri State 62
12/30 11:05:00 ET
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