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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vadalabene Center (4,000) -- Edwardsville, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: EIU 3-7, SIUE 6-3. Away Record: EIU 1-9, SIUE 1-8. Neutral Record: EIU 2-0, SIUE 0-0. Conference Record: EIU 3-6, SIUE 3-5. Series Record: Eastern Illinois leads, 4-1.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Illinois Panthers will try to continue their recent resurgence on Saturday night, as they visit the Vadalabene Center for an Ohio Valley Conference clash with the SIU Edwardsville Cougars.
EIU's season appeared to be in shambles just a few weeks ago, and following a 70-49 loss at Murray State on Jan. 17, its prolonged losing streak sat at 12 games, the team checking in at 3-16 overall and 0-6 in conference. Since then however, the Panthers have righted the ship with three straight wins, most recently claiming a home matchup versus Southeast Missouri State last Saturday in overtime, 78-72.
SIUE has also been on the winning side of things lately despite its disappointing 7-11 record. The Cougars had won three of four from Jan. 12 through Jan. 24, but they most recently fell on the wrong side of a hard- fought 65-62 decision against Tennessee-Martin last Saturday to drop to 3-5 in the OVC.
EIU has won four of the five games in the all-time series with SIUE, including both matchups last season.
The Panthers' winning streak appeared to be coming to an end in their latest game when they found themselves down by two in the final minute against SEMO. But Sherman Blanford drilled a clutch pair of free throws with six seconds to play to force overtime, and the team took control from the line in the extra session (12-of-13) to capture the victory. Blanford had a career-night, as he tallied 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Josh Piper was also strong down low with 13 points and nine boards. Morris Woods and Austin Akers netted 12 points apiece, and Malcolm Herron came off the best to contribute 11 points and eight rebounds. EIU is hardly an explosive offensive team, averaging less than 59 ppg. Blanford is both the team's leading scorer (10.9 ppg) and rebounder (6.0 rpg), while Piper chips in 10.7 ppg on 41-of-98 from 3-point range. Akers isn't usually much of a factor on the scoreboard (5.0 ppg), but he has dished out 89 assists against only 33 turnovers.
SIUE stayed within one possession of UT-Martin much of the time last weekend, and it even took a 60-59 lead on a Jerome Jones 3-pointers with just over two minutes to play, but it could not hold on to the lead down the stretch. The Cougars failed to standout with their field goal percentage (.400), and only Mark Yelovich (16 points) and Jones (13 points) finished the game in double figures. While SIUE boasts a stronger offensive attack than EIU, it's by the slimmest of margins, as it shoots just 43.2 percent from the field for a modest 63.3 ppg. Jones is one of the strongest scorers in the OVC with 15.5 ppg, doing much of his work from long range (2.6 3-pointers per game, .431). Yelovich is solid in the low post with 10.7 points and 5.8 caroms per contest, while Kris Davis adds 10.4 points and 3.2 assists to the mix.
Even though the Panthers have been rolling of late, success on the road has been virtually non-existent for the squad, losing nine of 10 away matchups. If SIUE can keep its mistakes to a minimum, it should be able to conquer the Panthers at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SIU Edwardsville 65, Eastern Illinois 60
02/02 10:44:31 ET