Belmont (21-8) at SIU Edwardsville (11-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 26, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vadalabene Center (4,200) -- Edwardsville, Illinois. Television: FSN-MW. Home Record: Belmont 12-1, SIUE 9-3. Away Record: Belmont 7-7, SIUE 2-12. Neutral Record: Belmont 2-0, SIUE 0-0. Conference Record: Belmont 12-2, SIUE 5-11. Series Record: Belmont leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Belmont Bruins will try to maintain their position at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference when they take on the SIU Edwardsville Cougars at the Vadalabene Center on Wednesday night.
Belmont doesn't have the top spot in the OVC all to itself. The Bruins are tied with Murray State for that honor (12-2), but they do have the distinction of owning best overall record (21-8) in the conference, and they have wins in four straight contests. They will play their regular-season finale on Saturday against Jacksonville State
SIUE is one of several teams looking up at the Bruins and Racers, doing so from sixth place (7-7) in the standings. The Cougars have lost two of their last three games, including a troubling setback to last-place Tennessee State last Thursday. However, they play their last two games at home with a date against Eastern Illinois following this bout.
This is only the second matchup between these teams ever. Last year, in the first meeting, Belmont rolled to a 73-43 victory.
J.J. Mann scored a game-high 21 points to lead four players in double figures, as Belmont easily defeated Eastern Illinois, 82-63, last time out. The Bruins shot at a 57.7 percent clip, which included an impressive 13-of-25 performance from beyond the arc.
Rick Byrd's squad rarely wastes possessions, consistently finding good looks at the basket. On the season, the Bruins are shooting an even 50 percent from the field, which ranks fourth in the country. Such efficient shooting has led them to the second-best scoring average in the OVC (79.9 ppg). Mann (18.1 ppg) and Craig Bradshaw (16 ppg) lead the way, with Mann fifth in the league in scoring. Bradshaw netted 20 points in the recent win over Eastern Illinois. Providing added scoring depth are Reece Chamberlain (11 ppg, 5.2 apg) and Drew Windler (10.3 ppg), although Chamberlain makes more of an impact as a passer, ranking fifth in the OVC in assists.
SIUE's inability to defend the perimeter was a major reason for its loss to Tennessee State last week. The Cougars were outscored, 24-9, from 3-point range, while sinking just 41.8 percent of their shots from the floor overall. Kris Davis scored 14 points as the top scorer in the losing effort.
They may not be shooting as well as the Bruins, but the Cougars are still doing a decent job of finding the bottom of the net (.471). However, they do not perform well enough on defense for that to really matter, as they let up 75.6 ppg on 49.5 percent shooting. Donivine Stewart (11.9 ppg, 4.4 apg) is the best individual scorer the Cougars have and the only one averaging in double figures. However, he was limited to four points on 2-of-11 shooting in the loss to Tennessee State. Keaton Jackson (9.1 ppg, 5 rpg) added 12 points off the bench, as he continued to carry the second unit for the squad.
Belmont's patience on offense makes it a tough team to beat regardless of the venue. Although the Bruins have had a rocky season on the road (7-7), their superior depth on offense gives them a leg up on the Cougars.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 77, SIU Edwardsville 69
02/26 10:39:55 ET