Nebraska-Omaha (10-5) at Western Illinois (6-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 11, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Western Hall (5,139) -- Macomb, Illinois. Television: CSS, CSN-HOU. Home Record: Nebraska-Omaha 6-0, WIU 4-1. Away Record: Nebraska-Omaha 4-5, WIU 0-7. Neutral Record: Nebraska-Omaha 0-0, WIU 2-1. Conference Record: Nebraska-Omaha 0-0, WIU 0-0. Series Record: Western Illinois leads, 7-3.
GAME NOTES: The Western Illinois Leathernecks and the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks will kick off their respective Summit League schedules, as they do battle at Western Hall on Saturday night.
The Mavericks are in the midst of a five-game road trip, having split the first two stops of the tour, with a win against Central Arkansas (104-88) and a loss to Hawaii (77-73). Omaha is now 10-5 overall, including a 4-5 mark away from home. Road tilts against North Dakota State and South Dakota State are next, before the Mavericks return home to Ralston Arena.
For Western Illinois, this contest is the finale of a quick homestand. The Leathernecks dropped the first part in a 78-67 decision against William & Mary. They have now lost three of their last four games, and are just 6-9 on the campaign. South Dakota State and North Dakota State are also the next opponents for the Leathernecks.
Western Illinois has a pair of matchups in each of the last two seasons, and leads the all-time series as a result, 7-3.
Omaha led by as many as nine points in the second half against Hawaii, but the wheels came off down the stretch. The Mavericks shot just 42.3 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, including an 0-of-9 effort from beyond the arc, after outscoring the Rainbow Warriors, 15-3, from 3-point range in the opening half.
Normally the Mavericks are an extremely efficient offensive team. They shoot 46 percent from the floor and are currently ranked 19th in the nation in scoring (84.1 ppg), doing so thanks to 17 assists per game. Pounding the glass is also an area of strength, with the Mavericks actually leading the Summit League in rebounding (36 rpg). CJ Carter (14.6 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Devin Patterson (12.3 ppg, 3.9 apg) form a solid duo in the backcourt with their ability to score and distribute. John Karhoff (13.7 ppg) is the top performer down low, while Mike Rostampour (7.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Marcus Matt Hagerbaumer (4.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) come up with their share of loose balls.
Garret Covington poured in a game-high 26 points for Western Illinois, but it wasn't enough against William & Mary as the Tribe prevailed by nine points. The Leathernecks were outscored both from beyond the arc (36-27) and at the free-throw line (18-10), which canceled out a 50 percent overall shooting performance.
Western Illinois is nowhere near as productive as Omaha, as the team is scoring only 61.4 ppg and hitting 45.8 percent of its field goal attempts. However, that is a product of the slower pace they prefer, as they are also holding foes to a mere 59.1 ppg and 40.2 percent shooting. Covington (13 ppg) and Adam Link (10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) are the only real scoring threats on the roster. Covington has reached double figures in four of the last five games, and has scored at least 20 points three times. Link is hoping to bounce back from his effort against William & Mary, which yielded just two points on 1- of-6 shooting.
If the Leathernecks can force Omaha to play a grinding pace, they will have a major advantage beyond the benefits of playing at home. However, WIU has only two wins against teams at the Division I level. Expect the battle-tested Mavericks to find a way to win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska-Omaha 67, Western Illinois 60
01/11 12:38:23 ET