Illinois-Chicago (9-1) at Western Illinois (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 18, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Western Hall (5,139) -- Macomb, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: UIC 5-0, WIU 2-0. Away Record: UIC 2-0, WIU 3-3. Neutral Record: UIC 2-1, WIU 2-0. Conference Record: UIC 0-0, WIU 2-0. Series Record: Illinois-Chicago leads, 19-15.
GAME NOTES: Winners of eight straight, the Flames of Illinois-Chicago make the trip to Macomb on Tuesday to tangle with the Western Illinois Leathernecks in non-conference play at Western Hall.
Over the weekend the Flames, who have suffered just a single loss to New Mexico (66-59) in the second game of the season, notched a 74-48 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles. With the victory, UIC is now off to a 9-1 start, the team's best 10-game opening since the 1997-98 campaign.
As for the Leathernecks, they too are enjoying success early in 2012-13, although not quite to the same extent as UIC. Ten days ago, Western Illinois topped SIU-Edwardsville at home in a 55-38 final, which means the team has now won four straight outings and five of the last six overall. The win also avenged a 62-50 setback to SIUE earlier in the season.
The Flames lead the all-time series by a count of 19-15, dating back to their very first meeting during the 1978-79 campaign when WIU captured a slim 82-81 home victory. While UIC won last year's meeting by just a single point as well, 57-56, the Flames have beaten the Leathernecks in nine straight contests.
The Flames did most of their damage in the first half against EMU, holding the visitors to just nine made field goals through the opening 20 minutes of action. In the second half, UIC prevented the Eagles from making any one of their eight 3-point tries, giving the hosts an easy path to the lopsided win. Daniel Barnes erupted for 30 points, hitting 6-of-13 shots out on the perimeter, followed by Gary Talton who filled in his stat line with 12 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals. Even though Talton is shooting just 35.2 percent from the floor, he continues to do everything possible to get the Flames into the win column, from his 13.0 ppg, to 4.7 rpg and team- highs with 51 assists and 19 steals. Barnes (13.0 ppg) and Hayden Humes (12.2 ppg) are also crucial at the offensive end of the floor.
The defense by the Leathernecks was stifling against SIUE in the last outing, holding the visitors to only 14 total field goals, while forcing 19 turnovers and trading in those miscues for 23 points. While SIUE didn't have a single player score in double figures, WIU had three reach the mark as Adam Link tallied a game-high 14 points, followed by Don McAvoy and Terell Parks with 11 points apiece, the latter also clearing a team-best nine rebounds. Held to nine points in the last game, Ceola Clark is still the leading scorer overall for the Leathernecks with his 13.9 ppg, stemming from his sensational 47.2 percent accuracy beyond the arc. Parks checks in with 12.9 ppg to go along with 8.9 rpg and 2.6 blocks per outing, but it is still tough to watch him convert a mere 44.2 percent at the free throw line.
More than anything else, the defense for the Flames has been incredible, holding foes to just 51.6 ppg which was fifth-best in Division I entering the week. Most opponents have had trouble even reaching 50 points against UIC and that figures to be the case for the Leathernecks as well.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois-Chicago 64, Western Illinois 46
12/18 10:31:27 ET