Drexel (0-1) at Illinois State (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 12, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Redbird Arena (10,200) -- Normal, Illinois. Television: CSN-CHI, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Drexel 0-0, Illinois St. 0-0. Away Record: Drexel 0-1, Illinois St. 0-1. Neutral Record: Drexel 0-0, Illinois St. 0-0. Conference Record: Drexel 0-0, Illinois St. 0-0. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: After both squads suffered tough losses in their respective season openers, the Drexel Dragons and the Illinois State Redbirds will attempt to find the win column on Tuesday night when they square off at Redbird Arena.
Drexel faced a difficult task in its first game, as it traveled out west to take on a nationally-ranked UCLA squad, and it fought tooth-and-nail for 40 minutes before falling on the wrong end of a 72-67 final. It was still a promising start for the Dragons, who went a disappointing 13-18 a season ago.
Illinois State also faced a brutal road test against a nationally-ranked opponent over the weekend, but the outcome wasn't as promising as Drexel's as it was thoroughly outplayed by VCU in a 96-58 defeat. At 18-15, the Redbirds were one of the best teams in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2012-13, but that number will be difficult to duplicate for a team that turned over nearly its entire roster from last season.
The teams met for the first time last season, as Illinois State outlasted Drexel in Philadelphia, 86-84, in overtime.
Although Drexel took good care of the basketball in the opener (11 turnovers) and managed to outrebound UCLA (39-38), it was ultimately done in by poor shooting as it made just 24-of-63 from the floor (.381), including 5-of-23 from 3-point range. The exception to the cold shooting was Frantz Massenat, who poured in 20 points on 8-of-16 from the field, while also contributing five assists and three steals. Damion Lee tacked on 17 points and Chris Fouch added 11, but the duo had a rough night in hitting only 8-of-33 combined shots. Dartaye Ruffin was a mainstay in the frontcourt for 37 minutes with eight points and 13 rebounds. The Dragons are expecting a much better season in 2013-14 thanks to the return of most of their primary performers from a season ago, as Lee (17.1 ppg), Fouch (16.7 ppg) Massenat (14.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Ruffin (6.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) bring ample experience to the table.
The Redbirds were ice-cold from the field in their opener, as they made fewer than 32 percent of their shots and were especially dismal from beyond the arc (4-of-23). In fact, the squad didn't perform well in any aspect of the game. It committed an unsightly 22 turnovers and allowed VCU to score at will at the other end (.544 FG percentage). The disappointing effort saw just one player score in double figures, with Zach Lofton netting 12 points, although Paris Lee, Jamaal Samuel and Daishon Knight were all close with nine points apiece. Illinois State might need to get used to nights like that, as it plays without last season's star players in Tyler Brown (18.1 ppg) and Jackie Carmichael (17.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg). In fact, all five starters are newcomers to the team this season.
As expected, Illinois State's new-look unit was far from sharp in the opener, and it might take some time for the unit to come together -- and even then, the results likely won't be pretty. Drexel has the disadvantage of extensive early-season travel, but its talented lineup should be able to push it to victory in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drexel 70, Illinois State 61
11/12 10:34:28 ET