Morehead State (20-13) at Illinois State (16-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 19, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Redbird Arena (10,200) -- Normal, Illinois. Television: None. CBI Record: Morehead State 1-1, Illinois State 0-0. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 5-1.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio Valley Conference and the Missouri Valley Conference clash in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational on Wednesday night, as the Illinois State Redbirds play host to the Morehead State Eagles at Redbird Arena.
Although Morehead State (20-13) were bested by No. 1 seed Belmont in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament (86-63), it still enjoyed a strong enough season to earn its fourth postseason bid in the last six seasons. The Eagles previously participated in the 2010 CBI, beating Colorado State in the first round before falling to Boston University in the quarterfinals.
Illinois State (16-15) stumbled at the end of the season with losses in three of its last four, including a 53-48 setback at the hands of Missouri State in the MVC Tournament quarterfinals. Despite their recent struggles, the Redbirds have shined at home with five straight wins at Redbird Arena and a 12-3 record in Normal on the season.
After Morehead State won the first meeting in the all-time series, Illinois State has since won five in a row, most recently downing the Eagles in Morehead on Dec. 7, 2011, 78-73.
The Eagles were no match for Belmont in the OVC semifinals, falling behind by as many as 31 in the blowout loss while getting outshot from the field, 52.9 percent to 39.2 percent. Brent Arrington and Angelo Warner both scored 15 points, but the duo combined to go 0-of-8 from 3-point range and no one else registered in double figures.
On the season, Morehead State shoots 44.9 percent from the field, slightly worse than its opponents (.450), but it still scores an impressive 76.8 ppg while allowing 72.9 ppg thanks to an outstanding +8.1 rebounding margin. Warner is the top scoring threat with 17.6 ppg and chips in elsewhere too with 4.8 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.9 rpg. Arrington scores 11.8 ppg, Drew Kelly nets 10.0 ppg and Chad Posthumus (9.7 ppg) is the nation's third-leading rebounder, hauling in 11.0 per outing.
The Redbirds overcame a 10-point first-half deficit in their latest game to capture a one-point lead with four minutes to play, but they were outscored by Missouri State down the stretch 8-2 as their MVC Tournament run came to an early end. The team shot a dreadful 31.4 percent from the field in the loss, although breaking free from the struggles was Zach Lofton, who shot 9-of-19 from the field off the bench with five 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 25 points.
Illinois State's offensive production this season has been modest at best, as it shoots only 41 percent from the field for 68.9 ppg, but luckily its defensive output (.424, 69.2 ppg) has been strong enough to lead it to a winning record. Daishon Knight (13.0 ppg) and Lofton (11.3 ppg) are the top scorers, but they arguably hurt the team more than they help, as neither shoots greater than 37 percent from the field. Bobby Hunter (10.5 ppg) has been much more efficient with his field goal attempts (.488).
Homecourt advantage in these events usually means less than it does during the regular season, and with Morehead State's impressive showing on the road this year (9-6), its dynamic offense should be able to surge past the Redbirds
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Morehead State 75, Illinois State 70
03/19 10:32:21 ET