GAMES NOTES: Two teams still in search of their first Ohio Valley Conference victory of the season will square off on Thursday night when the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles visit the Eastern Illinois Panthers at Lantz Arena.
After an 83-52 rout at the hands of Belmont on Saturday, Tennessee Tech has now lost five straight games and dropped to 6-9 this season. The Golden Eagles are winless in three tries against league foes and sport just a 2-6 mark on the road. Tennessee Tech will need to get its road issues straightened out quickly as this is the first of a three-game road trip that continues against SE Missouri State on Saturday.
As rough as its been for Tennessee Tech of late, it has been even worse for Eastern Illinois. The Panthers were dropped 65-50 by Morehead State in their last outing making it nine straight losses. Eastern Illinois is now just 3-13 overall including an 0-3 mark in league play. A return home doesn't necessarily mean a bounce back though with Eastern Illinois just 1-5 at Lantz Arena. On Saturday the Panthers finish off a two-game homestand against Jacksonville State.
Last season Eastern Illinois ended a three-game losing streak against Tennessee Tech with a 74-57 road victory. The Golden Eagles lead the all-time series by a 21-13 count.
There wasn't much of a fight put up by Tennessee Tech against Belmont. The Golden Eagles shot just 33.3 percent from the field, while allowing the Bruins to hit 56.1 percent of their field goal attempts. Also hurting the Golden Eagles' cause was a massive 39-15 disadvantage in points from beyond the arc.
The poor shooting from the Golden Eagles wasn't exactly out of character for them. Tennessee Tech is hitting just 43.1 percent of its shots from the floor this season and scoring just 64.8 points per game, which is the fourth worst mark in the OVC. Tennessee Tech also ranks near the bottom of the conference in rebounding (33.4 pg). The Golden Eagles have managed to keep most teams within striking distance though by letting up just 67.7 points on 43.3 percent shooting although all three league foes have averaged 79.3 points a contest. Keeping the Golden Eagles afloat is Jud Dillard (18.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg) who is the second leading scorer in the OVC. Jeremiah Samarrippas (10.6 ppg, 4.0 apg) is also scoring in double figures, while ranking in the top 10 in the conference in assists.
Eastern Illinois also had a tough go of it in its last outing against Morehead State. The Panthers hit on an even 40 percent of their shots in the game and managed to force 22 turnovers from the Eagles. However the Panthers were outscored 28-20 on points in the paint and dug themselves into an early hole with a 17-point first half.
Offense has been hard to come by for EIU this season. The Panthers are the lowest scoring team in the conference (55.8 ppg), while also ranking near the bottom in field goal percentage (.416). The Panthers' scoring average, along with their rebounding (27.4 rpg) are among the 10 worst marks in the country. The Panthers do not have the luxury of a go-to scorer like Dillard. Josh Piper (10.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is the top offensive threat and the only player averaging in double figures. Sherman Blanford (9.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Alex Austin (9.2 ppg) are the next best options.
In a battle of two teams that have been offensively-challenged this season this game will come down to which team has a scorer that can take over a game. Tennessee Tech has that in Dillard and should be able to knock off the Panthers in this matchup.