Eastern Illinois (1-1) at Illinois-Chicago (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UIC Pavilion (6,958) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Eastern Illinois 1-0, UIC 1-1. Away Record: Eastern Illinois 0-1, UIC 0-0. Neutral Record: Eastern Illinois 0-0, UIC 0-0. Conference Record: Eastern Illinois 0-0, UIC 0-0. Series Record: UIC leads, 17-15.
GAMES NOTES: In a intrastate battle on Saturday the Eastern Illinois Panthers will visit the Illinois-Chicago Flames in non-conference action at UIC Pavilion.
Eastern Illinois has been playing teams from within the state exclusively early on with the first two contests coming against Northwestern and Olivet Nazarene. The Panthers fell on the road to the Wildcats by a 72-55 margin. Then, in the home opener, the Panthers managed to collect a 67-60 victory over the Division II Tigers. Getting wins of any kind was a challenge for the Panthers last season when they finished just 11-21 overall. That included a 5-11 mark in non-league dust-ups and a 4-11 record on the road. Eastern Illinois will cross the border into Indiana for a matchup with Purdue in its next outing.
Illinois-Chicago has also split its first two games. The loss was a painful one as it came in a 61-59 decision at home against Drake. The Flames were able to ease their pain when they hit the floor next as they routed NAIA opponent Roosevelt, 87-65. The two contests were the first half of a four-game homestand for the Flames to start the year. Last year playing at home was the real strength of this team as the Flames managed a healthy 12-4 mark at home while going just 6-12 everywhere else. UIC finishes off the homestand, before taking part in the Gulf Coast Showcase, with a test against Northwestern.
The Flames have won four straight against the Panthers and own a 17-15 all- time series advantage. The most recent matchup ended with Gary Talton scoring 20 points to carry the Flames to a 67-63 triumph.
Even though it got a bit of a reprieve against Olivet Nazarene, Eastern Illinois has been struggling to find its rhythm on offense. In two games the Panthers have connected on just 36.1 percent of their attempts from the floor while having just 6-of-35 shots from 3-point range find the bottom of the net. Reggie Smith scored 19 points in the opener but he did not play against Olivet Nazarene due to illness. He is listed as out again for this game. Sherman Blanford is also listed as questionable as he is dealing with a sprained left ankle. Keenan Anderson (6.0 ppg) is the most likely candidate to take Blanford's spot in the starting lineup. Dennis Green (12.5 ppg) is the only player on the roster that has played in both games to be averaging in double figures. Alex Austin (9.0 ppg) is the next best option.
UIC has enjoyed more success on the early season. The Flames are shooting slightly better than 50 percent from the floor, while owning a +10.0 scoring margin. Marc Brown (22.5 ppg) is carrying the team offensively, while knocking down 17-of-26 shots from the floor. Brown scored a career-high 25 points in the win over Roosevelt. The rest of the offensive production for the Flames has been more spread out. Kelsey Barlow (11.0 ppg, 12 assists) has scored 11 points in each game and has been doing fairly well running the point.Hayden Humes (8.0 ppg) is a stalwart in the starting lineup as he and Brown are the only players each getting at least 30 minutes per game. However, Humes had only six points and five rebounds against Roosevelt. Markese McGuire scored eight points against Roosevelt, after not playing against Drake, and could be a nice option off the bench.
If Blanford and Smith were able to play the Panthers would have a real shot at collecting a victory on Saturday. Without them the task will be a much more difficult one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois-Chicago 74, Eastern Illinois 67
11/16 10:42:19 ET