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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 1, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lantz Arena (5,400) -- Charleston, Illinois. Television: WEIU. Home Record: SIUE 7-3, EIU 4-6. Away Record: SIUE 1-9, EIU 3-8. Neutral Record: SIUE 0-2, EIU 0-0. Conference Record: SIUE 4-4, EIU 4-5. Series Record: Eastern Illinois leads, 5-2.
GAME NOTES: The month of February kicks off for a pair of struggling Ohio Valley Conference clubs, as the SIU Edwardsville Cougars pay a visit to the Eastern Illinois Panthers.
The first few months of the season have gone poorly for SIU Edwardsville, which is just 8-14 overall. However, the Cougars have fought their way to a 4-4 mark in league play, with wins in three of their last four conference games. They will host Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee-Martin in their next two bouts.
Eastern Illinois has also had its difficulties this season, entering Saturday's duel with a record of just 7-14 overall. The Panthers have dropped two of their last three games, including an 82-68 setback on Tuesday against non-league foe Cleveland State. This matchup is the second in a four-game homestand for EIU, which continues next Wednesday against UT-Martin.
A year ago these teams split the season series, with the home team coming away victorious in each meeting. Eastern Illinois has earned victories in five of seven all-time matchups.
SIUE also stepped out of league play in its last game. In fact, the Cougars went outside of Division I all together, downing Crowley's Ridge, of the National Christian College Athletic Association, 77-48. Tim Johnson scored 15 points off the bench for the Cougars in the blowout victory.
The Cougars really benefited from the drop in competition, as they have not been nearly as effective defensively this season as they were against Crowley's Ridge. SIUE is giving up 75.5 ppg on 49.5 percent shooting this season, while ranking eighth in the OVC in scoring (72 ppg). Donivine Stewart (11.8 ppg, 4 apg) is the only player on the roster averaging in double figures, although seven others are netting at least 6.5 ppg. Stewart tallied 14 points on 6-of-11 from the floor last time out. Maurice Wiltz (9 ppg) is the squad's next best scoring option.
Eastern Illinois was bullied on the inside, as it was outscored in the paint (26-12) and outrebounded (34-26) by Cleveland State. Dylan Chatman and Sherman Blanford had strong efforts in the loss, with 19 and 16 points, respectively on a combined 12-of-20 efficiency from the field. However, the rest of the team recorded only 10 field goals.
The Panthers rarely find much success on offense. They are last in the OVC in scoring (65 ppg) and 11th in assists (11.3 apg), while connecting on just 43.1 percent from the floor. Reggie Smith (13.2 ppg) Blanford (11.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Chris Olivier are the only members of the team averaging in double figures. However, Smith, the team's leading scorer, finished with only eight points on 2-of-7 shooting against Cleveland State, while Olivier managed 10 points on a dismal 3-of-10 showing from the field. Alex Austin (7.4 ppg) is the only other player netting more than six ppg.
SIUE was beginning to pick up some momentum before facing Crowley's Ridge. The Cougars should be well rested and confident for this contest, which could prove to be the difference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SIU Edwardsville 71, Eastern Illinois 67
02/01 11:54:48 ET
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