Eastern Illinois (11-18) vs. Southeast Missouri State (17-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 5, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Municipal Auditorium (8,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: OVC Digital. Home Record: Eastern Illinois 7-7, SE Missouri State 9-4. Away Record: Eastern Illinois 4-11, SE Missouri State 5-9. Neutral Record: Eastern Illinois 0-0, SE Missouri State 3-0. Conference Record: Eastern Illinois 7-9, SE Missouri State 8-8. Series Record: SE Missouri State leads, 25-22.
GAME NOTES: A first-round matchup in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will feature the seventh-seeded Eastern Illinois Panthers taking on the sixth- seeded Southeast Missouri State Redhawks at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
The winner of this matchup will face the Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the quarterfinal round on Thursday.
Eastern Illinois had lost four games in a row before the squad turned things around with two consecutive victories to end the regular season. The Panthers took down SIU Edwardsville, 78-74, on Saturday in the regular-season finale to improve to 7-9 in conference play this season.
Southeast Missouri State ended the regular season on a high note, winning its last four contests to improve from 4-8 in the OVC to 8-8 come tournament time. The Redhawks took down Murray State in a thrilling 118-115 double-overtime battle to cap off a great comeback in the season.
SEMO leads the all-time series with Eastern Illinois by a slim margin, 25-22. The two squads met twice in the regular season, with Eastern Illinois winning at SEMO, and the Redhawks taking down the Panthers in Charleston, Ill.
Eastern Illinois took a 31-26 lead at the half against SIU Edwardsville on Saturday, and did just enough to fend off any comeback attempt the Cougars had in them. SIUE was able to gain a point back from EIU's first-half advantage, but nothing more. Reggie Smith and Chris Olivier led all Panthers in scoring in the contest. Smith netted 19 points with four assists. and Olivier chipped in 19 points of his own with nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Sherman Blanford tallied 13 points with 14 rebounds, and Alex Austin added 13 points of his own.
The Panthers own a 5-10 record all-time in the OVC Tournament, and have won one conference title - back in the 2001 season. Blanford was a rock for EIU this season, averaging a team-best 14.3 ppg and 8 rpg (sixth-best in the OVC). Smith added 13 ppg, and Olivier chipped in 11 ppg. The Panthers sported the league's second-worst scoring offense (67.9 ppg) and didn't exactly make up for it in terms of their scoring defense (73.3 ppg).
Jarekious Bradley and Tyler Stone each tallied a double-double, and seven players for Southeast Missouri notched a point total in the double digits as the Redhawks outlasted Murray State in double overtime. Bradley scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to pace his Redhawks, while Stone added 17 points and 14 rebounds. Josh Langford scored 17, Antonius Cleveland netted 21, Jamaal Calvin contributed 17, Nino Johnson chipped in 12 and Lucas Nutt notched 10 points with a team-high eight assists in the victory.
SEMO is 9-11 all-time in the OVC Tournament, and won its only OVC title in the 2000 season. The Redhawks were an offensive power this season, averaging a conference-best 83.3 ppg and sporting two of the top three individual scorers in the OVC in Bradley (19.4 ppg) and Stone (19.1 ppg). Only Tennessee State's Patrick Miller (23.7 ppg) averaged a better offensive game. Stone (9.5 rpg) is third in the OVC in the category, and Nutt topped the OVC with 5.9 apg. The team averaged a second-to-last 79 ppg allowed on the year.
The Redhawks clearly have the momentum entering this contest, having won four straight including the game against Murray State. Whichever team wins this round will run into a wall in Eastern Kentucky, but SEMO should have no issues outscoring the Panthers, who averaged 67.9 ppg this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SE Missouri State 79, Eastern Illinois 70
03/05 11:03:59 ET