Murray State (18-6) at Eastern Illinois (7-19)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 16, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lantz Arena (5,400) -- Charleston, Illinois. Television: Racer Television Network. Home Record: Murray State 9-2, EIU 3-8. Away Record: Murray State 7-3, EIU 2-11. Neutral Record: Murray State 2-1, EIU 2-0. Conference Record: Murray State 9-3, EIU 4-9. Series Record: Murray State leads, 37-8.
GAMES NOTES: The Murray State Racers will hope to pick themselves back up after a surprising loss when they invade Lantz Arena for an Ohio Valley Conference bout with the Eastern Illinois Panthers on Saturday night.
On Thursday the Racers gave up their control of second place in the OVC standings with a 65-61 upset at the hands of SIU Edwardsville. The setback ended a three-game winning streak for the Racers who are a strong 18-6 overall. However at 9-3 in league play they are tied with Eastern Kentucky in the league standings, trailing Belmont by a game and a half for the top spot.
Eastern Illinois also suffered a defeat on Thursday, though in much less surprising fashion. The 7-19 Panthers were bested by Austin Peay, 71-64, for their third loss in the last four games. Eastern Illinois has just about a reverse record of the Racers in league play (4-9) which has it seated just two spots ahead of last place in the OVC.
There has been zero parity between these teams historically. Murray State has won the last four meetings and 10 of the last 11, while earning a 37-8 all- time series lead. The most recent contest ended in a 70-49 rout for Murray State on Jan. 17.
A 10-2 run by SIU Edwardsville midway through the second half of the contest with Murray State allowed the Cougars to turn a one-point deficit into seven- point lead. The Racers were never able to get closer than four points the rest of the way as they gave up the decision.
In that setback, Murray State played an uncharacteristically poor game on the offensive end by shooting 39 percent from the floor. The Racers are putting in just under 45 percent of their shots from the field on average while knocking in the third most points per game (71.8) in the OVC. Star guard Isaiah Canaan (21.0 ppg, 4.2 apg) still managed to reach 20 points in the contest but again shot poorly, netting just 7-of-22 attempts from the floor. The 6-foot-1 senior is among the 10 best scorers in the country but has shot below 40 percent in five of the last six contests. Stacy Wilson (13.4 ppg) also scored 20 points in the loss, while Ed Daniel (13.8 ppg, 10.5 ppg), the only player in the conference averaging a double-double, was held to a meager eight points and five boards.
Poor play in the first half dug a hole that Eastern Illinois could never get out of against Austin Peay. The Panthers had just eight field goals in the first 20 minutes and shot 28.6 percent from the floor as they went into the break trailing 28-18. Morris Woods (24 points) and Alex Austin (20 points) were the only players on the team to score more than six points in the contest for the Panthers.
Failures on the offensive end have been the norm for Eastern Illinois. The Panthers are currently the worst scoring team in the conference as they net an even 60 points per game. That is also one of the 25 worst marks in the country. The Panthers are also among the 15 worst teams nationally in rebounds (29.4 pg). Three different players are averaging in double figures, with Sherman Blanford (10.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) the top option among them. Woods (10.3 ppg) is shooting a team best 49.3 percent from the field and has been getting more opportunities of late scoring at least 15 points in four of the last six games. Meanwhile, Josh Piper (10.0 ppg) is headed in the opposite direction, having failed to get in double figures in four straight matchups.
Murray State will be out to prove its loss on Thursday was just a blip on the radar. Expect the Racers to win easily behind Canaan and company.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 73, Eastern Illinois 62
02/16 10:31:50 ET