Eastern Illinois (10-18) at SIU Edwardsville (11-18)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 1, 6 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vadalabene Center (4,000) -- Edwardsville, Illinois. Television: FSN-MW. Home Record: EIU 7-7, SIUE 9-4. Away Record: EIU 3-11, SIUE 2-12. Neutral Record: EIU 0-0, SIUE 0-2. Conference Record: EIU 6-9, SIUE 7-8. Series Record: Eastern Illinois leads, 6-2.
GAME NOTES: A couple of Ohio Valley Conference teams bring the 2013-14 regular season to a close today, as the Cougars of SIU Edwardsville welcome the Eastern Illinois Panthers to the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars, an impressive 9-4 in their own building this season, are hoping to put an end to a two-game slide after bowing to Belmont earlier this week, 94-75. The loss dropped SIUE to 7-8 in conference play and into a tie for second place in the West Division of the OVC with Southeast Missouri State.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are a step behind SIUE in the standings with a mark of 6-9, just 10-18 on the campaign overall. The team is coming off a home win over Chicago State earlier in the week, 84-62, snapping a four-game slide in the process, but still EIU is only 3-11 in true road games this season.
Eastern Illinois won the first meeting of the season last month by a score of 76-70 at home, which means the all-time series now numbers 6-2 in favor of the Panthers.
Chicago State didn't stand a chance against the Panthers the last time out as EIU connected on a stellar 61.7 percent from the floor, helping to offset 16 turnovers which prevented the game from being even more lopsided. Chris Olivier tallied 20 points in 23 minutes off the bench for the Panthers, followed by Reggie Smith and Sherman Blanford with 13 points apiece, the latter adding 11 rebounds. Josh Piper and Luke Piotrowski pitched in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
In conference play, the leader in scoring has been Blanford with 17.9 ppg, shooting 55.7 percent from the floor and 78.3 percent at the free-throw line. Blanford is also tops on the list with 9.2 rpg, two times better than anyone else on the roster through those 15 decisions. Smith (13.8 ppg) and Olivier (10.1 ppg) help boost the program to 72.1 ppg, although the defense is giving up 76.0 ppg to OVC foes.
The Cougars fell behind Belmont immediately out of the chute and from there the hosts never had a chance as they allowed the Bruins to shoot 56.5 percent from the field in the 19-point loss. Tim Johnson was credited with 18 points off the bench, followed by Donivine Stewart with 17, Keaton Jackson 11 points and Rozell Nunn 10 for a squad that was crushed in the paint, 55-32.
SIUE has kept the same starting five for the entire OVC schedule, allowing Stewart to stand up and produce 13.2 ppg and hand out 73 assists, not to mention making 30 steals while playing more than 35 minutes per game. Kris Davis (11.7 ppg) is one of four players to have knocked down at least 20 3- pointers in conference play, connecting on 46.9 percent of his chances in order to lift the team to 39.6 percent.
Struggling on the road this season, the Panthers might be at a disadvantage this weekend, but judging by how poorly SIUE came out against Belmont, this might be the right time for EIU to challenge the Cougars away from home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Illinois 76, SIU Edwardsville 73
03/01 11:39:41 ET