Bradley (9-4) at Southern Illinois (7-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 2, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: SIU Arena (9,328) -- Carbondale, Illinois. Television: WSIU. Home Record: Bradley 7-1, SIU 3-0. Away Record: Bradley 2-1, SIU 3-4. Neutral Record: Bradley 0-2, SIU 1-1. Conference Record: Bradley 1-0, SIU 0-1. Series Record: Bradley leads, 42-40.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Illinois Salukis return home to Carbondale attempting to stay perfect at SIU Arena, as they take on the Bradley Braves in a Missouri Valley Conference bout on Wednesday night.
Bradley has been one of the nation's most pleasant surprises through the first two months of the season. After going a dreadful 7-25 last year, it has already surpassed that win total by going 9-4. The Braves were able to bounce back from two straight tough losses in the Las Vegas Classic to Virginia Tech (66-65 in OT) and Portland (57-55) by winning their MVC opener at home last Saturday, 67-57 over Drake.
SIU also began its MVC schedule this past weekend, suffering a disappointing loss at three-win Missouri State, 70-59. Despite losing three of their last four games, the Salukis are off to a 7-5 start to the season, which includes wins in each of their three games at SIU Arena.
These two teams have split the last eight matchups dating back to February of 2008, leaving Bradley with a 42-40 advantage in the all-time series.
Although Bradley shot a modest 41.8 percent from the field in its latest bout against Drake, it was able to hold the Bulldogs to just 33.9 percent shooting and it forced 18 turnovers, which it turned into 23 points. Walt Lemon, Jr. led the way with 23 points on 8-of-15 from the floor, and he also helped out with six rebounds and four assists. Dyricus Simms-Edwards was also fantastic, scoring 20 points and eight steals, one shy of the school record. Tyshon Pickett was impressive in the triumph as well with 10 points and eight rebounds. On the season, the Braves have been efficient from the floor, making nearly 45 percent of their field goal attempts for an average of 70.9 ppg, and it also ranks second in the MVC in scoring defense (61.3 ppg). Lemon, Jr. is the team's leading scoring with 13.2 ppg, and Pickett is a solid force in the frontcourt with 12.1 ppg. Simms-Edwards (10.9 ppg) rounds out the double-digit scorers, and his 3.4 spg ranks tied for second in the nation.
SIU suffered a letdown at Missouri State the last time out. Despite putting together a solid 45.8 percent shooting effort, the team was unable to stop the Bears (the lowest-scoring team in the MVC at 58.4 ppg), allowing them to make a lofty 54.1 percent of their total shots. Kendal Brown-Surles connected on 4- of-8 from 3-point range on his way to a team-high 12 points, while Anthony Beane chipped in 11 points in the setback. The Salukis have had trouble scoring all season long, as their 67.2 ppg is second-lowest in the conference. Even though points have come sporadically, SIU still has one of the league's most potent playmakers in Desmar Jackson, who tallies 15.5 ppg while adding 6.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.3 spg and 0.8 bpg to his stat line. Jeff Early adds 13.0 ppg and 7.1 rpg while shooting 51.7 percent from the floor, and Dantiel Daniels chips in with 10.8 ppg.
SIU has been much more impressive at home than it has been away from Carbondale, which gives it a great shot at a win in this bout. However, Bradley has been clicking on all cylinders in nearly every facet of the game, and the Braves will put together a strong effort to record a solid conference road win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bradley 69, Southern Illinois 65
01/02 10:33:59 ET