Eastern Michigan (15-10) at Northern Illinois (11-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 20, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (10,000) -- DeKalb, Illinois. Television: MAC-TV, ESPN3.com. Home Record: EMU 11-3, NIU 6-7. Away Record: EMU 4-7, NIU 5-6. Neutral Record: EMU 0-0, NIU 0-0. Conference Record: EMU 7-5, NIU 5-7. Series Record: Northern Illinois leads, 50-34.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Michigan Eagles hope to keep rolling along tonight when they step into the NIU Convocation Center for a Mid-American Conference bout with the Huskies of Northern Illinois.
Eastern Michigan has won each of its last three contests as it gets set to open a brief, two-game road swing. The Eagles hosted MAC West Division leader Toledo over the weekend and simply dismantled the Rockets in a 65-44 final.
Northern Illinois has split its last eight outings and is looking to rebound from Saturday's 62-54 setback at Akron. And although the Huskies are now back on their home floor, they are just 6-7 in their own building this season.
NIU holds a 50-34 lead in the all-time series, but EMU won all three meetings last season, including an overtime victory in the conference tournament. These teams will play each other again next Saturday in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
EMU faced a stiff challenge last Saturday against Toledo and its high-flying offense that entered the game ranked in the top-10 nationally (83.2 ppg). The Eagles went to a 2-3 zone and executed it to near perfection, as they held the Rockets to nearly half of their season's scoring average. They also held a 43-30 rebounding advantage over Toledo, which shot just 25.9 percent from the floor, well below its normal average of 48 percent. Mike Talley and Karrington Ward (eight rebounds) shared team-high scoring honors for EMU with 13 points apiece. On the season, Ward leads the Eagles in scoring (12.8 ppg), rebounding (6.8 rpg) and 3-pointers made (33; .363). However, that latter statistic has been something of a sore spot for the Eagles, who shoot just 30.3 percent as a team from the perimeter.
Fortunately for EMU, the Huskies are shooting an even worse 28.6 percent from the leader, which ranks among the worst percentages in the nation. They are +4.0 in rebounding margin, although all of those long-range misses do tend to create more opportunities on the boards. NIU does not have a single player on the active roster who is averaging double figures on the season, as top scorer Dontel Highsmith (10.5 ppg) was lost for the season to a knee injury after 11 games. Jordan Threloff has picked up some of the slack of late, as he is averaging 11.5 ppg over the last eight games while shooting a healthy 58.5 percent from the field in that span. He tallied a team-high 14 points against Akron, but the Huskies shot just 35.8 percent from the floor as a team and made only eight field goals after halftime.
EMU has had the upper hand of late in this head-to-head series and is also playing a better brand of basketball at the moment. Despite playing on the road, the Eagles will be plenty confident after such a thorough performance against first-place Toledo.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Michigan 66, Northern Illinois 59
02/20 10:25:47 ET