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Alcorn State (3-8) vs. Western Illinois (5-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 29, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: ASU 3-0, WIU 4-0. Away Record: ASU 0-7, WIU 0-7. Neutral Record: ASU 0-1, WIU 1-1. Conference Record: ASU 0-0, WIU 0-0. Series Record: Western Illinois leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Alcorn State Braves and the Western Illinois Leathernecks will square off on the final day of the Sun Bowl Invitational, as the two meet at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso on Sunday night.
Simply put, Alcorn State has not fared well during the first two months of the season, as it has won just three of its initial 11 games. The Braves opened this event on Saturday night by falling flat against Denver in what turned out to be a 67-49 loss, their seventh straight.
While Western Illinois' struggles haven't been as bad, it has nevertheless gotten off to a poor start as well, sporting just a 5-8 record, including a combined 1-8 mark in road and neutral-site games. The Leathernecks tangled with the tournament hosts on Saturday and fell on the wrong end of a 67-64 final to the UTEP Miners.
The Leathernecks are 2-0 all-time against the Braves, sweeping a home-and-home series during the 1990-91 season.
The Braves found themselves down by 20 points at halftime of Saturday's matchup with Denver, and while they climbed back to make it an 11-point game with under six minutes to play in the game, the deficit was just too great to overcome. They shot a respectable 44.7 percent from the field in the setback, but they failed to make a 3-pointer on four tries and had a lackluster showing at the free-throw line (15-of-29). LeAntwan Luckett was the lone standout in defeat, scoring 20 points on 6-of-14 from the field and 8-of-14 from the charity stripe.
Even prior to their most recent blowout loss, Alcorn State has struggled at both ends of the floor, coming into the tournament netting just 64.6 ppg on 38.4 percent shooting for a -8.1 scoring margin. Luckett has been the team's best scoring option all season long, putting up 14.7 ppg, although he does so on less than 39 percent efficiency from the field. Octavius Brown (9.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is a solid performer in the paint.
WIU appeared in control of its opening-round game, as it led by 10 with under five minutes to play, but it fell victim to a late 17-6 run by the Miners to deliver it the heartbreaking three-point loss. The team shot a respectable 46.2 percent from the field in the loss, but was ultimately done in by getting outscored at the foul line, 29-11. Garret Covington scored 16 points, although he did so on just 4-of-12 from the field, while Tate Stensgaard added 10 points and Mike Miklusak finished with seven points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Leathernecks are one of the nation's best defensive teams, as they hold opponents to under 40 percent shooting for a lowly 57.4 ppg, but unfortunately their scoring attack (60.8 ppg) is often not strong enough to support the cause. With his latest impressive effort, Covington became the team's leading scorer with 12.2 ppg. Adam Link (11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) brings stability to the frontcourt, but nobody else averages in double figures.
WIU may be reeling after blowing a big lead in its latest game, but it should have no problem getting healthy in this one against a hapless Alcorn State squad that has been spiraling out of control in recent weeks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Illinois 61, Alcorn State 45
12/29 10:33:21 ET
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