Western Illinois (15-4) at IUPU-Fort Wayne (9-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 24, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hilliard Gates Sports Center (2,000) -- Fort Wayne, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: WIU 9-1, IPFW 7-1. Away Record: WIU 4-3, IPFW 1-10. Neutral Record: WIU 2-0, IPFW 1-1. Conference Record: WIU 7-1, IPFW 2-5. Series Record: IUPU-Fort Wayne leads, 10-5.
GAME NOTES: The Western Illinois Leathernecks look to stay atop the Summit League standings as they visit Hilliard Gates Sports Center to take on the IUPU-Fort Wayne Mastodons.
IPFW leads the all-time series over WIU, 10-5. Earlier this season, the Leathernecks defeated IPFW at home, 62-50, to notch their third consecutive win in the rivalry.
WIU is coming off a big, 50-42, victory over North Dakota State that tied it with the Bison atop the Summit League standings. The Leathernecks have won 12 of their past 13 games to rise to a 15-4 overall record, giving them their best start to the season since the 1957-58 campaign. Western Illinois has lost only one game at home this season, winning nine inside Western Hall. All the success has come through a tremendous defensive effort. Coach Jim Molinari's squad is limiting its opposition to a mere 52.1 ppg, which is the fourth lowest mark in the nation. WIU is netting just 61.6 ppg itself.
North Dakota State is a decent offensive unit, but it did not appear to be against the Leathernecks, who limited it to 28 points below its second average and just 34 percent shooting from the field. Ceola Clark III led WIU with 13 points and Remy Roberts-Burnett chipped in 11. Terell Parks, who paces the team in both scoring (13.5) and rebounding (9.2), had a quiet offensive performance but made it for it by rejecting five shots. Clark III contributes 11.5 points and 4.2 assists, while Adam Links provides an additional 9.8 ppg. Clark III is a big reason why WIU is so tough defensively and his 219 career steals are by far the most in school history.
The Mastodons were defeated for the third time in four outings on Saturday, falling 63-59, to UMKC at home. The setback bumped IPFW down to a 2-5 mark in Summit League play. Frank Gaines led the Mastodons with 17 points. Mario Hines scored 13 and Joe Reed had 10 points as IPFW lost for the first time at home in eight games this season.
IPFW is slightly better on the offensive end than the visitors as it posts 65.3 ppg. The team's biggest strength is on the boards, as it leads the Summit League with 35.5 rebounds per tilt. Gaines is in a slump right now from distance as he is 3-of-18 from beyond the arc over his past four games. Regardless, the senior guard has been a consistent net scorcher this season, scoring 18.5 ppg. Luis Jacobo joins him in double-figures scoring with 10.7 ppg, while Hines provides an inside presence with 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Gaines will continue to struggle against the Leathernecks' swarming defensive rotation. Since IPFW lacks another consistent scorer, it will fail to match the output of Clark, Parks, and company.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Illinois 64, IUPU-Fort Wayne 58
01/24 10:32:58 ET