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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 16, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (8,800) -- Ypsilanti, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: EIU 0-1, EMU 1-0. Away Record: EIU 0-1, EMU 0-1. Neutral Record: EIU 0-0, EMU 0-0. Conference Record: EIU 0-0, EMU 0-0. Series Record: Eastern Illinois leads, 17-11.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Michigan Eagles will host the Eastern Illinois Panthers at the Convocation Center as part of the first ever EMU "Ice Man" Classic.
The round-robin format tourney also features Indiana Purdue-Fort Worth and Texas-Pan American.
The Panthers enter the tournament with an 0-2 record after their 56-44 loss to Wright State on Tuesday. EIU suffered a 76-53 setback in its season opener at Bradley. The team lost its most recent outing due to a dreadful first half performance on the offensive end of the floor. The Panthers made only 25 percent of their field goal attempts and just 1-of-11 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes versus Wright State and lost the game by a double-digit margin despite winning the second half by three points.
The Eagles are one game better with a 1-1 mark, but they are coming off a 61-54 loss to the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. EMU led the contest by one point with 5:47 remaining before JSU took back control and made free throws to take the win.
This will be the 29th meeting in history between these former Interstate Intercollegiate Conference rivals. EIU holds a 17-11 edge in the all-time series that has been idle since the 2006 season.
Freshman guard Alex Austin wasted no time making an impact for EIU. The Chicago native was named Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Week after he netted 13 points in the team's season-opening loss to Bradley. He followed his debut with 11 points versus Wright State. Junior Morris Woods is the only other player on the roster with a double-digit scoring average through two game with 10 ppg. The guard also leads the team with six boards per contest. The starting forward combo of Sherman Blanford and Josh Piper need to improve their combined average of 5.5 rebounds per game to help the Panthers win games. EIU has 23 less rebounds than its opponents this season for a minus-11.5 average margin on the boards.
There were question marks around who would be the Eagles' new go-to-guy with Darrell Lampley gone. Freshman guard Ray Lee made it seem like he was the point guard of the future with 12 points and seven assists in the team's season-opening 66-52 triumph of Rochester College, but he turned the ball over four times in 11 minutes at JSU. Fellow rookie Jalen Ross and Lee share the ball handling duties. Lee's court vision and passing ability will be a big-time help to EMU once he catches up to the speed of the college level. Daylen Harrison is the team's top option offensively. The Wyoming transfer produced 14 points and nine rebounds against the Gamecocks to improve his scoring average to 13 ppg. Derek Thompson (11.5 ppg) and Glenn Bryant (9.5 ppg) rank second and third on the team in scoring, respectively.
The Eagles were characterized by their star senior guard last season. EMU will take more time to mesh before its new look unit can produce at its highest possible level. With a weak EIU opponent arriving in Michigan, EMU should be able to build some confidence in this opening round matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Michigan 65, Eastern Illinois 56
11/16 10:32:45 ET
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