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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Western Hall (5,139) -- Macomb, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: SIUE 2-1, WIU 1-0. Away Record: SIUE 0-3, WIU 3-3. Neutral Record: SIUE 0-0, WIU 2-0. Conference Record: SIUE 0-0, WIU 2-0. Series Record: WIU leads 5-2.
GAMES NOTES: Western Illinois will look to extend a three-game winning streak and earn some revenge Saturday when the SIU Edwardsville Cougars come to town for a non-conference rematch at Western Hall.
SIU Edwardsville has not been so fortunate in its recent games with losses in three of its last four contests, including a 65-54 loss to Northern Illinois on Wednesday. That defeat came on the road where SIUE is winless in three tries this season. All three road losses have come by double digits. The Cougars are just 2-4 overall but will get back on their home floor in their next bout against Division III foe Eureka.
With a 57-45 win over Eastern Illinois on Wednesday, the Leathernecks secured a third straight win and ended what was a eight-game stretch away from home. After that win Western Illinois is now 6-3 overall this season, which includes a win in its only home contest, which came in the regular season opener against junior college Wabash. This matchup begins a seven-game homestand that continues against Illinois-Chicago.
Although these teams are not conference foes, they have already met this season. SIUE played host in the contest and came away with a 62-50 victory. Even with the win the Cougars still trail the all-time series 5-2.
SIUE trailed by 11 points at halftime after allowing Northern Illinois to shoot 57.7 percent in the first half. The Cougars were unable to make much of a dent in the second half en route to the loss. SIUE shot at just a 39.5 percent clip in the game and losing despite outscoring the Huskies from 3- point range (27-15) and the free-throw line (11-8). The difference came on the inside with Northern Illinois owning a 33-25 edge on the boards and a 34-12 advantage in points in the paint. Jerome Jones dropped in 19 points and all five starters accounted for all the scoring for SIUE.
Getting enough points on the board has been a problem for SIUE this season. The Cougars are scoring 62.8 points per game and shooting at a less than stellar 39.6 percent from the field. On the other end the Cougars are giving up 67.2 points per game, while teams connect on 45.5 percent of their shots from the floor. The Cougars are also being outplayed on the glass as they suffer from a -6.2 margin in rebounds. Jones (17.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg) is one of the better scorers in the Ohio Valley Conference and the top offensive option for the Cougars by far. Kris Davis (10.8 ppg) is the only other player scoring in double figures, but his efficiency (38.7 FG percentage) leaves much to be desired. Derian Shaffer (7.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is the top rebounder for a team that is weaker on the boards with the loss of Mark Yelovich (8.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) who missed the last two game and is listed as questionable with a sprained ankle.
Western Illinois rallied from a 27-20 deficit at halftime but dominated in the second half to get by Eastern Illinois. The Leathernecks hit 58.8 percent of their shots after halftime and had a 13-1 edge in points from the free-throw line as they outscored the Panthers 37-18 in the final 20 minutes. That differential from the free-throw line ended up being crucial as the Leathernecks ended up recording three fewer field goals that Eastern Illinois. Adam Link scored a game-high 15 points and hit 7-of-9 shots from the charity stripe.
The Leathernecks have earned their stripes on the defensive end of the floor this season. Western Illinois is surrendering only 52.6 points per game, while teams are successful on just 39.5 percent of their shots from the floor. The Leathernecks' defensive scoring average is the fifth best mark in the country. Those defensive showings have been needed since Western Illinois only scores 58.6 points per game. Despite running four forwards in the starting lineup it is guard Ceola Clark (14.4 ppg, 3.3 apg) that leads the team in scoring this season. Clark is also a menace on the defensive end as he collects 2.2 steals per game. Terell Parks (13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg) has been a tremendous boost in the frontcourt along with Link (9.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), who scores well enough but needs to improve his rebounding. No other player scores more than eight points per game for Western Illinois.
Clark and company have gotten used to playing in close games by grinding it out on both ends of the floor. With the home crowd behind them the Leathernecks may be able to find a bit more offensive success while the defensive pressure should remain the same.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Illinois 66, SIU Edwardsville 57
12/08 10:37:57 ET