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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 26, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Centrum Arena (5,300) -- Cedar City, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: EWU 3-4, Southern Utah 5-3. Away Record: EWU 0-9, Southern Utah 1-7. Neutral Record: EWU 1-1, Southern Utah 0-2. Conference Record: EWU 2-6, Southern Utah 4-5. Series Record: Southern Utah leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Washington Eagles will try to fly their way out of the Big Sky Conference cellar on Saturday night, as they have come to Cedar City to tangle with the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
EWU's season has been a huge disappointment, as it has lost 14 of its 18 games, and its showing in the Big Sky (2-6) hasn't been much better. The Eagles most recently faced Northern Colorado on the road last Saturday, and came away with a 72-56 defeat to remain winless on the road (0-9).
The Eagles kept their latest game close, as they went into halftime trailing by three (33-30), but they lost control after halftime, finishing the game shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor and 6-of-10 from the foul line. Venky Jois did all he could to lift his team to victory, tallying 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and seven blocks. Collin Chiverton added 13 points off the bench, and Parker Kelly chipped in 11 points in the setback.
SUU's season hasn't been much better, as it sits at 6-12 overall, although its Big Sky mark (4-5) certainly has it in contention. After winning their first three league games, the Thunderbirds took a nose-dive by losing five in a row. They managed to snap out of it Thursday night with a 76-63 triumph over Portland State at home.
Southern Utah opened up its last bout with a 12-2 run and eventually cruised to the double-digit win by outshooting the Vikings from the field, 50.9 percent to 36 percent. Jackson Stevenett was on fire, going 9-of-13 for 21 points. Damon Heuir tallied 19 points and six assists, while Jayson Cheesman had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
These newly-formed conference rivals have met just four times previously, with SUU winning three times.
Eastern Washington has been underwhelming at the offensive this season, shooting less than 40 percent from the field for 67.8 ppg, but the primary reason for its failures has been a scoring defense that is tied for last in the Big Sky in allowing 75.9 ppg. Jois has been mostly reliable in shooting 50.8 percent from the floor for 13.1 ppg, while also leading the league in rebounds (9.4 rpg) and blocks (2.3 bpg). Justin Crosgile (14.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.5 apg) left the team earlier this month, meaning the Eagles need to rely on greater production from Chiverton (10.2 ppg) and Martin Seiferth (8.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
SUU's offensive attack is led by the Big Sky's leading scorer in Stevenett, who nets 16.2 ppg while logging impressive percentages from the field (.461) and the foul line (.855). Hot on his heels in Heuir, who pours in 15.5 ppg while doing the majority of his damage from beyond the arc (37-of-108). Despite having the best scoring duo in the league, the Thunderbirds have a rather underwhelming scoring offense, ranking 10th in the conference at 65.6 ppg, while also placing in the lower-half of the league in scoring defense (71.6 ppg).
EWU is a team in disarray, and it has shown no signs of life away from home, meaning SUU and its dynamic scorers should have no problem winning its second straight game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Utah 75, Eastern Washington 67
01/26 10:34:55 ET