Western Illinois (18-14) at Oregon State (19-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 14, 10:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gill Coliseum (10,400) -- Corvallis, Oregon. Television: HDNet. CBI Record: Western Illinois 0-0, Oregon State 5-2. Series Record: Oregon State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Former champion Oregon State will return to the College Basketball Invitational to square off with Western Illinois in a first-round matchup at Gill Coliseum this evening.
Oregon State will be making its third appearance in the CBI, a tournament the Beavers won in 2009. Oregon State really put together one of its best stretches of basketball to close out this season with wins in four of its last five games including a stunning 86-84 win over Pac-12 regular season champion Washington in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. With that final push, Oregon State ended with a 19-14 overall record after having only 11 wins a year ago.
Western Illinois also won four straight games before dropping a 52-50 overtime decision to South Dakota State in the Summit League title game after the Leathernecks downed the presumed favorite in the conference in Oral Roberts. The Leathernecks' strong finish also propelled them above .500 with the squad's overall record standing at 18-14 entering play in their first ever appearance in the CBI.
These teams have met only once previously and it has been quite awhile with Oregon State winning the only matchup, 91-71 during the 1981-1982 season.
After leading 28-24 at halftime, Western Illinois managed to score only 16 points in the second half of the Summit League title game to allow South Dakota State to tie up the game and eventually win it in overtime. It was the third straight game in which the Leathernecks failed to score more than 58 points after they shot 40.4 percent in the game and had only two points from the free throw line.
Such low-scoring efforts have been the norm for Western Illinois this season, averaging just 61.6 ppg. Defense is the driving force for WIU though, allowing only 59.5 points per game (19th nationally). Ceola Clark and Obi Emegano have been battling for the top spot on the team in scoring this season. Clark finished atop the roster with 13.4 points per game while also leading the team in assists (4.7 apg). Emegano, a freshman forward, will most likely take over the scoring lead in years to come after putting in 13.2 points per game this season. Terrell Parks (12.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg) has also been a strong contributor and double-double threat after leading the conference in rebounding this year.
After its upset of Washington, Oregon State's run in the Pac-12 Tournament came to an end in the semifinals against Arizona. The Beavers built a 34-27 halftime lead but then allowed the Wildcats to run up 45 points in the second half to fall by double digits, 72-61. The Beavers converted on only 37.7 percent of their shots from the floor and were outscored by a 27-15 margin from three-point range.
Offensive struggles have not been something Oregon State has been familiar with this season. The Beavers topped the Pac-12 and were the 10th best in Division I in terms of scoring this year, managing a stellar 78.9 points per game. Having one of the Pac-12's best scorers certainly helps any offense and the Beavers have been lucky enough to have such a player in Jared Cunningham (17.7 ppg), who finished second in the Pac-12 in scoring. Cunningham's scoring average has dropped though down the stretch as he has averaged only 13.0 points per game over the last seven games after a four-game stretch in which he scored at least 20 points. Sophomore forward Devon Collier (13.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the second option, followed by Ahmad Starks (12.2 ppg), Roberto Nelson (9.6 ppg) and Joe Burton (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
Two teams with totally different approaches are clashing in this matchup. The key for Oregon State will be Cunningham and his ability to fill up the basket. If he gets hot, OSU can make another long run in this event.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 76, Western Illinois 63
03/14 10:35:24 ET