Western Illinois (7-10) at North Dakota State (13-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 18, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bison Sports Arena (5,830) -- Fargo, North Dakota. Television: Me TV. Home Record: WIU 5-1, NDSU 6-1. Away Record: WIU 0-8, NDSU 6-4. Neutral Record: WIU 2-1, NDSU 1-0. Conference Record: WIU 1-1, NDSU 2-1. Series Record: Series is tied, 7-7.
GAME NOTES: The Western Illinois Leathernecks try yet again to make their way into the win column on the road, as they challenge the North Dakota State Bison in Summit League action on Saturday afternoon.
Two nights ago, the Leathernecks dropped their eighth road date of the season as they bowed to South Dakota State in Brookings by a final of 64-55. The defeat was the second in the last three outings for WIU, which is now 1-1 in conference.
As for the Bison, who have won six of their seven home games in 2013-14, they posted their second straight victory on Thursday in an overwhelming 91-69 triumph over Nebraska Omaha. The win was a sixth in the last seven games for an NDSU program that is 2-1 in league play.
According to Western Illinois sources, the series between these two teams is tied at 7-7. The Leathernecks won both regular-season bouts in 2012-13, but in March it was NDSU that claimed a 55-43 victory in the conference tournament.
Western Illinois shot 50 percent from the field in the first half against SDSU, but the team made a total of just 10 field goals in the period, eventually converting a grand total of only 18 field goals, just slightly more than the 15 turnovers that kept the Leathernecks from keeping up with the hosts. Garret Covington scored a game-high 24 points, shooting 9-of-17 from the field and 4-of-7 behind the 3-point line, but no one else on the team tallied more than a pair of field goals for WIU.
Covington, the leading scorer in three straight and four of the last five outings for the Leathernecks, is responsible for a team-best 13.9 ppg even though he has made good on just 39.2 percent of his shots from the floor overall. Covington does have a team-high 33 3-point baskets, but as a group the Leathernecks are converting an average of only 4.5 triples per contest. Adam Link is the other double-digit scorer for the program with 10.1 ppg, thanks to 58.5 percent from the field.
The Bison scored the first points of the night against the Mavericks on Thursday and never looked back, leading by as many as 25 points late in the second half. The team put six players in double figures, led by Taylor Braun with 20 points, adding a team-best eight rebounds. Lawrence Alexander dropped in 14 points and handed out five assists, Mike Felt contributed 13 points, Marshall Bjorklund 11 and both Kory Brown and TrayVonn Wright 10 points apiece.
A 49.7 percent shooter from the floor who has resided quite a bit at the free- throw line (112-of-142) this season, Braun leads the team in scoring with 18.6 ppg. But more than just tossing up shots at the basket, Braun is also first on the unit in assists with 65, not to mention pulling down 4.8 rpg and logging a team-best 31 steals, making him one of the most complete players in the league. Bjorklund (14.8 ppg), Wright (11.4 ppg) and Alexander (10.4 ppg) are all key figures for the explosive offense.
Generating 80.3 ppg, the Bison are hard to keep up with when the offense dictates the pace of games. Considering Western Illinois has had no success on the road, all signs point to a North Dakota State win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 84, Western Illinois 68
01/18 10:24:50 ET