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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lantz Arena (5,300) -- Charleston, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Toledo 1-0, EIU 1-4. Away Record: Toledo 0-6, EIU 0-3. Neutral Record: Toledo 1-0, EIU 2-0. Conference Record: Toledo 0-0, EIU 0-0. Series Record: Eastern Illinois leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets will aim for their first true road win of the season as they head to Lantz Arena for a non-conference tilt with the Eastern Illinois Panthers.
The Rockets will be concluding their three-game road trip after being defeated by Cleveland State (78-73) and Detroit (79-73) in the first two installments of the expedition. Coach Tod Kowalczyk's squad is now carrying a 2-6 record after a promising 19-17 finish to last season. Although it has a losing record, four of Toledo's six losses have been by six points or less. The combined record of the teams that have downed the Rockets is 35-16. Toledo is a decent team on the offensive end of the floor with an average of 70.1 ppg, but it is allowing 74.2 ppg.
EIU suffered a 57-45 setback to Western Illinois on Wednesday which dropped the team's record to 3-7. The loss was the third in a row and fourth in five games for the Panthers, who showed their vulnerability even at home by losing 59-56 to Rochester of the NAIA in late November. Coach Jay Spoonhour is in his first full season as a head coach after spending many years as an assistant and served a brief stint as UNLV's interim coach to complete the 2004 season. His team, which is just 1-4 at home, is netting only 56.9 ppg while allowing 60.9 ppg to its opposition.
Eastern Illinois and Toledo will be meeting for the just the third time as the Rockets are returning a Bracketbuster game from the 2011 season. EIU has won the two previous meetings both played in Toledo.
Toledo played both Detroit and Cleveland State tough in its last two outings. The Rockets were tied with the Titans with 10:24 remaining before Detroit produced a 14-3 run to take control. They shot 45.6 percent from the field and converted 13-of-16 at the charity stripe, but could not overcome 18 turnovers which turned into 16 points for the Titans. Sophomore guard Julius Brown and junior guard Rian Pearson led the team with 20 and 19 points, respectively. Junior forward Matt Smith also reached double figures for the second game in a row with 15 points while rookie center Nathan Boothe pulled down a season-high nine caroms and swatted three shots. Pearson leads the Mid-American Conference in scoring with 18.9 ppg while Brown is also in the league's top 10 with 15.5 ppg.
The Panthers did a decent job on the defensive end of the floor versus Western Illinois their last time out as the Leathernecks made only 16 field goals and had the same amount of turnovers. However, EIU was outscored 21-4 at the free throw line and ended the contest with five less rebounds than its intrastate rival. None of the Panthers scored in double figures as they surrendered a seven-point halftime lead. Senior guard Austin Akers went 3-of-4 from the field for seven points, but the rest of the starting lineup combined to make only 10-of-29 attempts from the field. Sophomore forward Josh Piper paces the team with 11.6 ppg, while junior Sherman Blanford is contributing 9.2 points and 5.4 boards per contest from the other forward slot.
While the argument that Toledo is better than its record indicates can be made, the same cannot be said about EIU. The Rockets have plenty of scoring punch with Pearson and Brown manning their backcourt. The home team will have trouble matching keeping up in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 72, Eastern Illinois 60
12/08 10:40:42 ET