Eastern Illinois (3-15) at Murray State (12-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 17, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CFSB Center (8,600) -- Murray, Kentucky. Television: None. Home Record: EIU 1-7, MSU 4-2. Away Record: EIU 0-8, MSU 6-1. Neutral Record: EIU 2-0, MSU 2-1. Conference Record: EIU 0-5, MSU 3-1. Series Record: Murray State leads, 36-8
GAME NOTES: The Murray State Racers continue their quest to repeat as Ohio Valley Conference champions with a home bout against the Eastern Illinois Panthers.
Murray State owns a sizeable 36-8 all-time series lead versus Eastern Illinois. The Racers coasted to an 82-63 decision in the last meeting in Murry to improve to 20-2 versus the Panthers at home.
Eastern Illinois comes into this one looking to snap its 11-game slide that was extended on Saturday when it was defeated, 61-55, by Jacksonville State. Coach Jay Spoonhour's team is now 3-15 overall and without an OVC victory in his first year at the helm of the ship. The Panthers are scoring only 56.7 points per game, which is 4.5 ppg less than any other school in the conference.
The poor offensive output leaves Eastern Illinois without a scorer in double- digits. Josh Piper and Sherman Blanford are just under 10 points per game each to lead the team. Austin Akers is the primary ball handler and is dishing out 4.0 assists per outing to lead the squad. In their recent loss to JSU, Blanford was the lone Panther in double figures with 10 points and seven boards off the bench. Akers netted nine points and dished out five assists. As a team, EIU shot 42.6 percent from the floor but missed five free shots and allowed the Gamecocks to knock down 47.7 percent of their field goal tries.
Akers will have his hands full as he goes head-to-head with Murray State's Isaiah Canaan. The senior point guard is leading the OVC in scoring (21.9) while ranking second in 3-pointers made (3.3) and eighth in assists (3.9). Canaan has led the Racers to a 12-4 overall record that includes victories over St. John's, Evansville, and Auburn. Murray State is atop the West Division standings with a 3-1 mark in league play, but it trails three unbeaten teams in the league-wide race for first.
Coach Steve Prohm's squad suffered its first loss of the conference season on Jan. 9 to Eastern Kentucky at home, but it bounced back on Saturday by clipping Austin Peay, 71-68. Isaiah Canaan scored 26 points, and Ed Daniel had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead Murray State past the Governors. The Racers hit 45.1 percent of their field goal attempts and held a 19-10 advantage in free throw line scoring to hold off APSU. Despite the decent outing, the Racers' 74.3 points per game average indicates they are capable of much more.
Even if Eastern Illinois manages to slow down Murray State, it does not have enough firepower on the offensive end to build an insurmountable lead. With a floor general like Canaan leading the charge, the Racers will be too strong of a force for the Panthers to stop.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 80, Eastern Illinois 62
01/17 10:35:00 ET