Southern Illinois (6-12) at Bradley (6-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, January 17, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carver Arena (11,433) -- Peoria, Illinois. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: SIU 4-4, Bradley 6-4. Away Record: SIU 1-6, Bradley 0-6. Neutral Record: SIU 1-2, Bradley 0-2. Conference Record: SIU 2-3, Bradley 1-4. Series Record: Bradley leads, 44-40.
GAME NOTES: A pair of 6-12 Missouri Valley Conference squads will meet up at Carver Arena on Friday night attempting to turn things around, as the Bradley Braves play host to the Southern Illinois Salukis.
Despite SIU's lackluster overall record, things have been looking up lately with wins in two of its last three games, most recently using a late rally to take down Northern Iowa at home on Tuesday night, 68-66. The Salukis are 2-3 in the MVC but now head back on the road where they've gone just 1-6.
Meanwhile, Bradley has shown very little signs of life in recent weeks, having lost three in a row and 10 of its last 11 since a promising 5-2 start to the campaign. The Braves had the unenviable task of facing nationally-ranked and undefeated Wichita State on the road Tuesday night and suffered a 72-50 setback to slip to 1-4 in league play.
Bradley holds a 44-40 advantage in the all-time series over SIU, including wins in both of last season's matchups.
The Salukis trailed for most of their latest contest against UNI, including by 12 points with under five minutes to play, but they ended the game on a 16-2 run, capped off by Desmar Jackson's game-winning jumper with seven seconds left to lift them to victory. They finished the game by shooting 46.2 percent from the field and making all but one of their 16 free-throw attempts and were paced by the efforts of Jackson, who tallied 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Sean O'Brien (15 points) and Anthony Beane (14) were also stellar, both shooting 6-of-11 from the field.
On the season, SIU actually shoots an impressive 46.5 percent from the field, better than its opponents (.441), but it still has a -1.7 scoring margin mostly because of its inefficiency from beyond the arc (4.1 3-pointers per game at a 30 percent clip). Jackson is the unquestioned leader, as he ranks second in the MVC in scoring with 20.6 ppg on 48.9 percent from the field and 79.2 percent from the free-throw line. Jalen Pendleton (11.4 ppg) and Beane (10.9 ppg) are regular contributors as well.
The Braves played very good defense in hostile territory earlier in the week, and they held the usually-potent Shockers to under 40 percent shooting, but it was ultimately all for naught, as they shot only 35.2 percent themselves on their way to the 22-point setback. Walt Lemon Jr. was only 5-of-14 from the floor but generated enough volume to lead the way with 12 points, with Tyshon Pickett (11 points, eight rebounds, three steals) and Omari Grier (10 points) also made the most of the loss.
Bradley has established a similar theme all season long, as it plays well on the defensive end of the court, ranking fifth in the MVC in allowing 67.7 ppg, yet can't make up the difference on offense, scoring a league-low 63.8 ppg. Lemon is the spark plug on both ends of the floor with 16.8 ppg and more than two steals per contest, but he's committed more turnovers (69) than assists (67). Pickett (12.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is a mainstay in the frontcourt, while Grier (11.7 ppg) rounds out the double-digit scorers.
SIU has clearly been playing better basketball of late, but the Braves have still performed well in their home arena (6-4) despite the poor overall record and should play strong enough defense in this one to get back on the winning track.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bradley 66, Southern Illinois 64
01/17 10:34:56 ET