Youngstown State (8-5) at Illinois-Chicago (9-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UIC Pavilion (6,958) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: HLN. Home Record: YSU 4-1, UIC 5-0. Away Record: YSU 4-2, UIC 2-3. Neutral Record: YSU 0-2, UIC 2-1. Conference Record: YSU 0-0, UIC 0-0. Series Record: Illinois-Chicago leads, 22-7.
GAME NOTES: Two teams heading in opposite directions open up Horizon League play on Wednesday night, as the Illinois-Chicago Flames play host to the Youngstown State Penguins.
Youngstown State opened the season on a three-game winning streak only to slip into a four-game skid. Since then however, the Penguins have claimed victories in five of six games to move to 8-5 on the year. They are currently winners of back-to-back contests, going on the road to beat Bethune-Cookman (67-51) and taking care of business versus Marygrove this past Saturday (93-52).
As for Illinois-Chicago, it started the season red-hot by winning nine of its first 10 games. The Flames did not fare well on their recent three-game road swing however, dropping matchups against Western Illinois (70-54), Miami-Ohio (82-70) and Toledo (74-55). They are happy to return to UIC Pavilion for this contest though, as they've won all five games on their home floor to this point.
These two teams split last season's series, with each winning at home. As a result, UIC holds a comfortable 22-7 advantage.
Youngstown State took full advantage of facing a Division II opponent the last time out, holding significant advantages in the rebounding (51-25) and turnover (21-10) battles on its way to an easy 41-point victory. Kedrick Perry shot 7-of-12 from the field for 17 points, and in the process became the 33rd player in program history to score 1,000 points. The junior guard also chipped in with six rebounds, six assists and four steals. Blake Allen tallied 17 points and eight assists in the blowout victory, while Bobby Hain (13 points, eight rebounds) and Damian Eargle (11 points) were also effective. While the offensive explosion was a slight departure from what the Penguins are used to, they still possess the Horizon League's second-best scoring offense with 73.8 ppg. Perry is the league's fourth-leading scorer, putting up 16.2 ppg while also recording team-bests in assists (61) and steals (19). Eargle (12.3 ppg, 7.4 ppg) ranks sixth in the nation in blocks (3.5 bpg), and Allen adds 12.2 ppg to the mix.
Not only did UIC suffer its third consecutive loss in the 19-point setback to Toledo, but it scored fewer than 60 points for the seventh time this season, as it shot just 33.3 percent from the floor. Daniel Barnes was one of the team's few saving graces, as he connected on 6-of-10 tries from 3-point range on his way to 18 points. Hayden Humes also scored in double figures with 11. The Flames' offensive struggles have been well-documented, as they shoot just 39.4 percent from the field for an average of 63.7 ppg, but they have been able to log a winning record by sporting the best field goal percentage defense (.383) and the second-ranked scoring defense (57.1 ppg) in the league. Barnes does most of his damage from beyond the arc, making 38-of-93 long-range attempts (.409) en route to a team-best 12.7 ppg. Gary Talton runs the point and logs 12.2 ppg, 4.7 apg and 1,7 spg, while Humes chips in with 11.4 ppg and 5.8 rpg. UIC has shown great continuity in its starting lineup, as Barnes, Talton, Humes, Josh Crittle and Marc Brown have started all 13 games together.
After such a hot start, it was only natural for the Flames to come back to the pack a little bit, but a return to the Windy City will more than likely result in an upswing in their play. YSU possesses an impressive offensive attack, but in its own building, UIC's stout defense should be able to hold off the Penguins.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois-Chicago 65, Youngstown State 62
01/02 10:34:15 ET