Montana State (9-9) at Eastern Washington (5-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 31, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reese Court (6,000) -- Cheney, Washington. Television: None. Home Record: Montana State 8-2. EWU 4-4. Away Record: Montana State 1-7, EWU 0-10. Neutral Record: Montana State 0-0, EWU 1-1. Conference Record: Montana State 6-4, EWU 3-7. Series Record: Montana State leads, 43-31.
GAMES NOTES: Riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak, the Montana State Bobcats will take to the road to face the Eastern Washington Eagles in Big Sky Conference action at Reese Court Thursday night.
It took an extra period but Montana State extended its winning streak with a 61-59 win in overtime over Idaho State last Saturday. The victory pushed the Bobcats back to .500 overall (9-9), while improving their conference record to 6-4. That mark is good enough to give Montana State sole possession of third place in the conference standings.
As for the Eagles, they ended a four-game losing streak on Monday with a 76-65 win at home over Portland State. That contest kicked off a three-game homestand for the Eagles who have earned an even 4-4 split at Reese Court this season. Eastern Washington is still just 5-15 overall and at 3-7 in league play, finds itself in a four-way tie for last in the league standings.
When these teams met earlier this season at Worthington Arena the host Bobcats escaped with a 70-68 overtime victory. That increased the Bobcats' lead in the all-time series to 43-31.
Antonio Biglow nailed a pair of clutch free throws with 17 seconds left and a last second shot attempt from Idaho State was off the mark to give Montana State the win. The Bobcats shot a solid 45.5 percent from the field in the game while nailing eight shots from 3-point range.
Scoring has not been the issue for Montana State, which has four players averaging in double figures this season. The Bobcats are second in the conference in scoring (72.7 ppg), despite sitting just sixth in field-goal percentage (.425). Where the Bobcats have fallen short is on the defensive end as they surrender 72.3 points per game, while teams shoot at a 46.7 percent rate. Though he missed eight games earlier in the season Christian Moon (15.0 ppg) has been stellar in terms of scoring since his return, leading the team with a 51.7 shooting percentage. Xavier Blount (11.5 ppg) was the leading scorer before Moon returned, while Flavien Davis (10.2 ppg) and Antonio Biglow (10.1 ppg) have been no strangers to carrying the load offensively.
Eastern Washington used a 57.1 percent shooting effort in the second half and a 27-9 edge from beyond the arc to get by Portland State. The Eagles were also solid on defense as they limited the Vikings to less than 40 percent shooting, while outscoring them 13-8 in points off turnovers and 34-20 in the paint.
Like Montana State, Eastern Washington's defensive efforts have brought the Eagles down. On the campaign the Eagles are letting up a less than ideal 75.1 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting. The Eagles are also suffering from a nearly five rebound deficit on the boards while shooting worse than 40 percent from the floor. The offensive punch for Eastern Washington took a real hit when lead scorer Justin Crosgile (14.7 ppg, 5.5 apg) left the team for personal reasons earlier this month. That has put a lot of pressure on Venky Jois (13.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Colin Chiverton (10.1 ppg) who are the only other players averaging in double figure. Jois has generally done well in the role as top option, while leading the conference in rebounds and blocks as well.
Although Montana State got the best of Eastern Washington last time, the homecourt edge might tip the scales in its favor this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 71, Montana State 69
01/31 10:36:03 ET