Eastern Illinois (4-11) at Jacksonville State (8-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 11, 5:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pete Mathews Coliseum (5,500) -- Jacksonville, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: EIU 3-4, JSU 6-1. Away Record: EIU 1-7, JSU 1-9. Neutral Record: EIU 0-0, JSU 1-1. Conference Record: EIU 1-3, JSU 2-2. Series Record: Eastern Illinois leads, 9-7.
GAME NOTES: A three-game homestand continues for the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Saturday, as they welcome the Eastern Illinois Panthers to Pete Mathews Coliseum for an Ohio Valley Conference affair.
Eastern Illinois has fallen on tough times this season as it sits at just 4-11 entering play this weekend. The Panthers dropped an 81-69 decision to Tennessee Tech on Thursday for their third straight loss. The setback came on the road, where the Panthers are just 1-7 on the campaign, although they do get to host their next game against Murray State.
As for Jacksonville State, it was able to end a two-game slide in the first portion of this homestand, by posting a 61-52 triumph over SIU Edwardsville. The Gamecocks are still looking up at the .500 mark for the season (8-11), but they have been difficult to stop at home (6-1). Next Thursday they will host Tennessee State in a rematch of Jan. 4 loss to the Tigers.
There was only one matchup between these teams a year ago, and the visiting Gamecocks captured a 61-55 victory for their third straight win over the Panthers. However, EIU leads the all-time series, 9-7.
The Panthers connected on 51 percent of their shots from the floor against Tennessee Tech on Thursday. However, they were outscored, 30-21, from 3-point range and by a 25-10 margin from the free-throw line as they fell into the loss column once again.
If there was any positive from the game it was the improved efficiency for Eastern Illinois. On the season, the Panthers are shooting just 41.9 percent from the floor, while ranking dead last in the OVC in scoring (63.7 ppg). Reggie Smith (12.4 ppg) and Sherman Blanford (11.1 ppg, 6 rpg) are the top offensive threats on the roster. Smith had just six points on 2-of-7 shooting against Tennessee Tech, and Blanford pitched in with 11 points and six rebounds. Dylan Chatman (4.7 ppg) had his best game of the season, nailing four 3-pointers to finish with 14 points, his second double-figure effort in the last three games and on the season overall.
Jacksonville State blanketed SIU Edwardsville on defense, holding the opposition to just 36.5 percent shooting. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks shot at a more respectable 44.2 percent, while scoring 32 points in the paint. Brian Williams dropped in 15 points and Jamal Hunter logged a double-double consisting of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gamecocks have also had trouble consistently putting points on the board this season, as they are ranked 10th in the league in scoring (67.3 ppg) and ninth in field goal percentage (.432). Cleaning the glass has also been a problem, as Jacksonville State grabs just 30.6 rpg. Darion Rackley (13.4 ppg) is the first scoring option, with Williams (10.6 ppg, 4 apg) normally taking a backseat and contributing more as a passer. However, Rackley had just five points against SIUE. Hunter 5.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) doubled his normal production both in points and rebounds in that victory.
Even though they have lacked consistency, the Gamecocks have been extremely reliable at home. Expect them to figure out a way to limit the already struggling Panthers and come away with a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jacksonville State 70, Eastern Illinois 61
01/11 12:24:26 ET