Western Illinois (4-5) at Utah State (6-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, December 19, 10:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270) -- Logan, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: WIU 4-0, USU 4-1. Away Record: WIU 0-5, USU 2-0. Neutral Record: WIU 0-0, USU 0-1. Conference Record: WIU 0-0, USU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The first-ever meeting between the Western Illinois Leathernecks and the Utah State Aggies takes place tonight in Logan, as the teams compete as part of the Basketball Travelers Classic at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
The Leathernecks are currently one game under .500 due to the fact that they are winless in all five road tests in 2013-14. The team had been enjoying a three-game win streak recently, beating the likes of Greenville, Eastern Illinois and Grace Bible, but suffered a 59-52 setback at Alabama State on Monday night.
As for the Aggies, a team which is 67-10 in the last 77 home dates, they are 4-1 in their own building this season. The latest victory arrived over the weekend in the form of a 71-60 triumph over Utah Valley. The win snapped what had become a two-game slide, after the program opened the campaign with five consecutive victories.
Both teams will be back in action each of the next two days, both going up against UC Santa Barbara and Troy in order to complete the tournament.
Against Alabama A&M the Leathernecks shot just 37.0 percent from the field in the first half and 39.3 percent for the game, but that's not what did in the visitors. Instead, the big difference between the squads took place at the free-throw line where WIU was outscored by a 17-3 margin. Adam Link scored a game-high 16 points on 8-of-14 from the floor, adding nine rebounds, while Jordan Foster chipped in 11 points as he converted 3-of-4 beyond the arc and a perfect 2-of-2 at the charity stripe.
Link, the leading scorer for the Leathernecks over the last four outings, is currently second on the team with his 11.3 ppg, although his overall point total of 102 is tops on the unit. Just ahead of him in terms of scoring average is Garret Covington with 12.0 ppg, although Covington is shooting just 38.1 percent from the floor and 29.5 percent beyond the arc. Then again, Western Illinois is far from a threatening team out on the perimeter with a collective 29.3 percent while averaging less than five conversions per game.
The Aggies had little trouble asserting themselves against Utah Valley over the weekend, shooting an impressive 58.6 percent from the field in the first half, including 6-of-12 behind the 3-point line in order to build a 46-23 lead at the break. The second half was a bit more of a challenge for USU as it shot only 38.5 percent from the floor, but by then the game was well in hand. Preston Medlin and Jarred Shaw both tallied 18 points, the latter matching Kyle Davis (12 points) for the rebounding lead with seven.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, they enter this tournament without the services of Shaw who has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, according to head coach Stew Morrill. Shaw currently leads the Aggies in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots with averages of 16.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest, respectively. At this point there is no timetable for his return, which means Medlin (14.0 ppg), Spencer Butterfield (13.1 ppg) and the rest of the unit will have to pick up the slack until further notice.
Fortunately for the Aggies, at least in the case of Western Illinois, they still have a superior roster even without Shaw. As long as the rest of the team doesn't try too hard to make up for the loss everything should be good to go in Logan tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 74, Western Illinois 62
12/19 11:18:27 ET