SIU Edwardsville (4-7) at Eastern Kentucky (11-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alumni Coliseum (6,500) -- Richmond, Kentucky. Television: None. Home Record: SIUE 4-1, EKU 8-0. Away Record: SIUE 0-6, EKU 3-3. Neutral Record: SIUE 0-0, EKU 0-0. Conference Record: SIUE 0-1, EKU 1-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Kentucky Colonels attempt to keep their perfect record at Alumni Coliseum alive when they host the SIU Edwardsville Cougars in an Ohio Valley Conference showdown on Saturday night.
SIUE fought hard in its OVC opener on the road on Thursday night, but it ultimately fell short of Morehead State in suffering the 68-64 setback. The loss leaves the Cougars winless on the road in six tries, and their struggles away from home are the primary reason for their sluggish 4-7 start.
While SIUE has struggled, EKU has soared through the first two months of the season with an 11-3 record, a mark which appears to be destined to eclipse last year's modest 16-16 mark. After beginning the year on a nine-game winning streak, the Colonels went on to lose three of four before defeating Eastern Illinois in their league opener on Thursday, 65-54.
SIUE won both matchups against EKU last season to even up the all-time series at 2-2.
Despite playing well at the defensive end of the court this season by allowing opponents to net just 64.0 ppg, SIU Edwardsville has not been able to take advantage offensively, shooting less than 41 percent from the floor for 61.6 ppg, the second-worst average in the OVC. The Cougars were actually pretty strong on Thursday, outshooting Morehead State, 44 percent to 40.4 percent, but they came up just shy thanks in large part to a sizable disadvantage in the rebounding battle (44-23). Maurice Wiltz was a spark coming off the bench in the setback, shooting 6-of-9 from the field (including 4-of-5 from 3-point range) en route to 16 points. Kris Davis tallied 14 points and five assists, while Derian Shaffer added 10 points. Typically, it's Jerome James who leads the way in scoring, as he nets 15.3 ppg while draining 2.5 3-pointers per contest at a 40.3 percent clip. Davis is the only other player to put up double-digits on a nightly basis with his 10.8 ppg.
While its shooting output stalled in the second half against Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky still drained 45.7 percent from the field for the game, which included nine 3-pointers, and it allowed the Panthers to score only 54 points as it held on for the 11-point victory. Both Mike DiNunno and Tarius Johnson finished with 13 points, with DiNunno doing so on 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Marcus Lewis was effective off the bench with 11 points. The Colonels have been a well-balanced team this season, making good on nearly 47 percent of their field goal attempts for 71.6 ppg, good enough for a plus-8.2 scoring margin. They have lived off the 3-pointer, as they make nearly nine of them per contest at a 36.5 percent clip. EKU's top two scorers, Glenn Cosey (15.9 ppg) and DiNunno (14.0 ppg), have both found great success from long range, as the two have combined for 77 treys and have made them at greater than 42 percent efficiency. One of the Colonels' only weaknesses is their lackluster rebounding effort, as they routinely lose the battle on the boards by an average of 6.5 rpg.
With SIUE winless on the road and EKU having yet to lose at home, the writing is on the wall in this matchup. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Colonels should be able to impose their will relatively early.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Kentucky 75, SIU Edwardsville 61
01/05 10:32:55 ET