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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 23, 9:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reese Court (6,000) -- Cheney, Washington. Television: None. Home Record: SUU 1-4, EWU 5-1. Away Record: SUU 0-10, EWU 0-9. Neutral Record: SUU 0-0, EWU 2-0. Conference Record: SUU 0-6, EWU 2-4. Series Record: Southern Utah leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling Big Sky Conference squads will face off at Reese Court on Thursday night, as the Eastern Washington Eagles play host to the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
Since opening the season with an 85-78 triumph versus Arizona Christian, SUU has suffered a dour fate with 14 consecutive losses, including six in a row to start Big Sky play. The Thunderbirds most recently dropped a 65-59 decision at Weber State on Saturday, but the silver lining was it lost by only single digits for the first time since Jan. 2.
EWU is coming off a two-game road trip in which it dropped tilts with Northern Arizona (84-65) and Sacramento State (75-64) to slip to 7-10 overall and 2-4 in conference play. The Eagles have yet to win on the road this season (0-9), but now they return home to Reese Court, where they've conquered five of six decisions.
SUU leads the all-time series with EWU, 4-2. The teams split last season's two-game series, with each team winning at home by double-digit margins.
The Thunderbirds looked as though they were on their way to snapping their losing streak up by seven over Weber State with less than 14 minutes to play in their latest bout, but they got cold down the stretch and eventually lost the six-point battle. They shot a solid 44.2 percent from the field but were ultimately done in by getting outscored at the free-throw line, 31-7. Trey Kennedy was stellar in defeat with 17 points, while A.J. Mess and Jaren Jeffery also made their mark with 16 points apiece.
SUU has been dreadful offensively this season, as it shoots 36 percent from the field for a meager 53.9 ppg, which ranks last among all Division I teams. Its performance on the defensive end of the floor (.492, 75.4 ppg) has been poor as well. Kennedy is the only player in double figures with 10.6 ppg, doing so on just 38.2 percent from the field. Hess chips in 8.5 ppg.
The Eagles fell behind Sacramento State by 10 points at the half over the weekend and could not recover in the second stanza. They were outshot from the field, 50 percent to 40.8 percent, and outrebounded by a 37-28 margin. Venky Jois paced the effort with 17 points and seven rebounds. Tyler Harvey was just 3-of-15 from the field but made 8-of-10 at the foul line for 15 points, Drew Brandon tallied 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Parker Kelly chipped in 11 points.
Scoring points hasn't been EWU's problem this season, as it drains 8.1 3- pointers per game at a 35.7 percent clip en route to 73.3 ppg, but it has given up even more points to its opponents (75.0 ppg). Harvey is the league's second-leading scorer with 20.3 ppg thanks to his conference-best 60 3- pointers, made at 43.8 percent efficiency. Jois mans the paint with 13.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 1.5 bpg, Drew Brandon puts up 10.9 ppg and 5.2 apg, while Kelly rounds out the balance scoring attack with 10.5 ppg.
Consistency hasn't been EWU's strong suit this season, but it has played well at home and should have no problem dismissing the lackluster Thunderbirds in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 81, Southern Utah 64
01/23 10:19:44 ET
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