SIU Edwardsville (9-16) at Belmont (22-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 27, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Curb Event Center (5,085) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: SIUED 8-5, Belmont 11-0. Away Record: SIUED 1-11, Belmont 9-5. Neutral Record: SIUED 0-0, Belmont 2-1. Conference Record: SIUED 5-9, Belmont 12-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAMES NOTES: The Belmont Bruins look to stay atop not only their division but the Ohio Valley Conference overall when they take on the SIU Edwardsville Cougars in a league tussle at the Curb Event Center.
With losses in five of their last six games, the Cougars are not exactly thriving in the OVC. The Cougars are just 9-16 overall and at 5-9 in league action, rank third in the West Division of the OVC. The most recent setback for the Cougars was an 80-78 loss to Central Arkansas during BracketBusters weekend. That game kicked off this three-game road trip for the Cougars which finishes with the regular-season finale against Eastern Illinois on Saturday.
Belmont was also involved in a BracketBusters affair on Saturday but the Bruins came away with an 81-62 victory against Ohio. The win was the third in the last four games for the Bruins, who are 22-6 overall, making them one of just three teams with at least 20 wins in the OVC. The Bruins are 12-2 in league action which not only has them leading the East Division but the OVC as a whole. Belmont is a perfect 11-0 at the Curb Event Center where it will close out the season on Saturday against Jacksonville State.
This marks not only the first meeting of the season between these teams but also the first ever. Belmont had been a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference until this season.
Though they led by as many as 12 points against Central Arkansas, SIUED still gave up the decision on Saturday. The Cougars shot an even 50 percent in the contest but were outscored 20-11 from the free-throw line. Tim Johnson (22 points) and Mark Yelovich (20 points) each reached the 20-point mark in the losing effort.
SIUED is among the worst offensive teams in the OVC this season. The Cougars rank second to last in the conference in points (64.4 pg), while shooting at just a 43.1 percent rate from the field. The already weak offense suffered a big blow earlier this month when leading scorer Jerome Jones (16.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) was suspended from the team. With Jones gone, Yelovich (11.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Kris Davis (11.6 ppg) are now pacing the team. Davis has scored in double figures in seven straight games while Yelovich, who is also the Cougars' top rebounder, has done so in four straight contests.
Belmont went up against a fellow 20-win team against Ohio and absolutely dominated. The Bruins shot at a 51.9 percent clip in the win, while holding the Bobcats below 40 percent shooting. Ian Clark led the way with a game-high 18 points.
The Bruins' rise to the top of the OVC has been built on strong offensive play. AS a team, the Bruins rank at the very top of the conference in scoring (77.4 pg), assists (16.1 pg) and field-goal percentage (.493) with each of those marks among the top 20 nationally as well. Clark (18.4 ppg) has been no stranger to putting up big points as he shoots 54.5 percent from the floor, ranking third in the OVC in scoring. Clark is one of just four players on the team scoring in double figures. Kerron Johnson (13.2 ppg), Trevor Noack (12.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and J.J. Mann (10.3 ppg) are all solid contributors as well.
With Jones gone the Cougars won't have nearly enough offensive firepower to stun the Bruins. Expect Belmont to earn at least a share of the OVC regular-season crown come Wednesday night.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 78, SIU Edwardsville 60
02/27 10:36:50 ET