GAMES NOTES: Eastern Illinois continues its quest to end a lengthy losing streak when the Panthers match up with the Austin Peay Governors in Ohio Valley Conference action at the Winfield Dunn Center on Saturday night.
After being thoroughly outclassed, 70-49, against Murray State on Thursday Eastern Illinois has now fallen into the loss column in 12 straight games. The losing streak has been a black mark on a dismal season for the Panthers who have earned just three wins overall in 19 games. The Panthers are winless in all nine road games and all six conference contests as well. They face Tennesee-Martin at home next.
Austin Peay certainly hasn't excelled either. The Governors are just 5-14 overall after a 66-53 loss to SIU Edwardsville on Thursday. The loss was the 10th in the last 11 games for the Governors and the fourth in five tries against OVC competition. This is the final game of a four-contest homestand for the Governors who have managed to split their eight contests as hosts. A three-game road trip awaits Austin Peay next beginning against Jacksonville State.
Last season the Governors swept the seasons aeries to earn their 13th win in the last 14 meetings with the Panthers. Austin Peay also leads the all-time series by a 23-13 margin.
Eastern Illinois was run off the floor by Murray State on Thursday. The Panthers managed to hit on just 41.3 percent of its field goal attempts, including a 4-of-16 effort from beyond the arc. The real separation came in the second half when the Racers connected on 68.2 percent of their shots from the field including 9-of-12 from beyond the arc.
The Panthers' difficulties in picking up wins can be traced primarily to their struggles to put points on the board. The Panthers are not only the worst scoring team in the OVC (56.3 ppg) but also among the 10 worst scoring units in the country. Josh Piper (10.1 ppg) is the only player on the roster averaging in double figures and one of just four putting in more than six points per game. Sherman Blanford (9.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the second best scoring option and the team's leading rebounder.
Austin Peay was victim to another weak offensive showing in its loss to SIU Edwardsville. The Governors managed to connect on just 38.5 percent of their shots from the field, including a miserable 2-of-19 showing from beyond the arc. The Governors were also outrebounded by a 39-28 margin but did manage to block eight shots as a team, seven of which came from Chris Horton as he set a career best.
For the Governors it has been their lack of defensive production that has weighed them down. Austin Peay is getting lit up for 75.3 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting this season while teams assist on 15.8 field goals a contest. On the offensive end the Governors have actually held their own ranking among the top five teams in the conference in both scoring (71.5 ppg) and field goal percentage (.453). Travis Betran (17.7 ppg) has been a major reason for Austin Peay's offensive success as he is fourth in the OVC in scoring. Anthony Campbell (14.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg) has provided a strong second option. Will Triggs (12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is another scorer. Horton (7.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.2 bpg) makes up for his lack of scoring by leading the team in rebounds and the league in blocks.
As long as Austin Peay can keep teams at bay offensively they have the type of offensive firepower to put wins together. That shouldn't be too difficult a task against the offensively challenged Panthers.