Belmont (20-6) at Eastern Illinois (8-19)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 20, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lantz Arena (5,400) -- Charleston, Illinois. Television: WEIU. Home Record: Belmont 10-0, EIU 4-8. Away Record: Belmont 8-5, EIU 2-11. Neutral Record: Belmont 2-1, EIU 2-0. Conference Record: Belmont 11-2, EIU 5-9. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Belmont Bruins hope to avoid their first losing streak of the season as they visit Lantz Arena for an Ohio Valley Conference bout with the Eastern Illinois Panthers.
This will be the third meeting between Belmont and EIU. The Bruins and Panthers met twice during the 2009-10 season in non-conference action. Belmont won at EIU, 95-62, while EIU won at Belmont, 63-60. All five Belmont seniors played against EIU as freshmen.
Rick Byrd's Bruins suffered their second loss in three games on Thursday as they fell, 80-69, at Tennessee State. The setback dropped Belmont to 20-6 overall and 11-2 in OVC play, which gives it sole possession of first place. The Bruins have been extremely active defensively this season, claiming 10 or more steals in 11 of 13 OVC games. Belmont is fifth nationally in steals per game. Ian Clark paces the team with 18.9 ppg on 56.3 percent shooting from the floor and Trevor Noack is the Bruins' top rebounder with 5.6 per tilt.
In the loss to Tennessee State, Belmont was ice cold from long distance and held to a season-low 19.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. Kerron Johnson and Noack netted 16 points apiece, J.J. Mann added 13 and Clark went 5-of-14 from the field to contribute 10 points. Clark also went 0-of-7 on 3-point attempts and committed five of the Bruins' 16 turnovers. Despite the poor showing, Belmont has been dominant enough throughout the 2012-13 campaign to accrue a collection of double-digit victories this season and owns a +14.1 ppg scoring margin versus OVC foes.
After losing three games in a four-game stretch, EIU pulled off a shocking 79-70 upset of the Murray State Racers on Saturday to improve to 5-8 in the OVC standings. EIU has picked up victories in three of its last four home games. Morris Woods poured in 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field to spearhead the charge against Murray State. Josh Piper and Sherman Blanford chimed in with 15 points each, with the latter also accounting for 14 rebounds.
Offensive firepower has been lacking for Eastern Illinois for the most part. The Panthers are the lowest scoring team in the OVC (60.7 ppg), while shooting at a mediocre 43.4 percent from the floor. Woods (10.7 ppg), Blanford (10.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Piper (10.2 ppg) are the double-figure scorers on the team and three of only four contributors putting in more than six points a game. EIU was 7-of-12 from 3-point range against Murray State to mark the second time in four games it has hit on better than 50 percent from behind the arc in the last four games.
The Bruins will have to make sure they lock down the perimeter against the suddenly adept 3-point shooting Panthers. Clark should use this game to bounce back after a poor showing at TSU. Belmont's poor performance against the Tigers will soon be forgotten as it redeems itself at Lantz Arena.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 77, Eastern Illinois 64
02/20 11:05:20 ET