Jacksonville State (10-5) at SIU Edwardsville (4-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 10, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vadalabene Center (4,000) -- Edwardsville, Illinois. Television: Fox Sports Midwest. Home Record: JSU 5-2, SIUE 4-1. Away Record: JSU 3-3, SIUE 0-7. Neutral Record: JSU 2-0, SIUE 0-0. Conference Record: JSU 2-2, SIUE 0-2. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Jacksonville State Gamecocks hope to find some answers on the road as they venture to the Vadalabene Center to tangle with the SIU Edwardsville Cougars.
James Green's Gamecocks took a couple of steps in the right direction as they defeated Tennessee Tech by 21 points and Tennessee-Martin by 10 in their first two OVC games of the season, but they enter this one with a 2-2 mark in league action after dropping consecutive decisions to Belmont (73-62) and Tennessee State (66-57), both of which took place at home. Jacksonville State was impressive during its non-conference slate as its only losses came at UNLV, Oregon, and Nebraska.
The Cougars return to Edwardsville with the same goal in mind to turn things around. SIUE was unable to collect any wins during its three-game road trip that consisted of bouts at Saint Louis (68-41), Morehead State (68-64), and Eastern Kentucky (78-72). Although coach Lennox Forrester's team has lost three games in a row and five straight against Division I competition, it has won its last three at the Vadalabene Center, where it is 4-1 on the year.
This will be the third meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. Both teams successfully defended their own floor last season in SIUE's maiden voyage as a member of the OVC.
Jacksonville State's success throughout the non-league portion of its schedule came due to its stifling defensive effort that has given it an OVC-low 60.6 points allowed per game average. However, the Gamecocks manage just 64.1 ppg on the offensive end as they lack the ability to consistently sink shots from 3-point range (73-of-233). Darion Rackley attempted to will the team to a win versus Tennessee State on Saturday by netting a game-high 22 points and Tarvin Gaines chimed in with 17 points, but the rest of the squad when just 5-of-26 from the floor and 7-of-16 at the free throw line. Rackley and Gaines are first (14.2) and second (13.1) in the scoring column for JSU, respectively. Brian Williams and Ronnie Boggs are both providing just under 11 points per game also, but Green does not have any other capable scorers beyond his top four.
SIUE made its transition to the OVC from the Division II level in 2011-12. During its first tour of the top tier of college basketball, SIUE produced 65.7 points per game, while it allowed opponents to net 71.3. The Cougars have actually digressed on the offensive end to net just over three points less per outing, but there is noticeable improvement in their defensive approach as their foes are posting 66.2 ppg this in year two. Although they gave up 78 points to EKU on Saturday, the Colonels scored 17 points off of turnovers and put on a clinic at the free-throw line where they went 19-of-21. Jerome Jones paced four Cougars in double figures with 15 points, while senior Mark Yelovich finished with a season-high 14 points and seven rebounds. Jones is generating a team-leading 15.3 points per game and Kris Davis adding 10.8 ppg. Yelovich has been hindered by injuries this season to produce career-low marks in points (8.0), field goal percentage (.351), rebounds (5.4), and blocks (0.3). The 6-6 forward was the main option for SIUE in 2011-12 when he used a potent inside-outside game to earn 15.1 ppg.
Yelovich's return to full form will give SIUE a much better chance throughout the course of its second OVC campaign, but he is still not 100 percent. The Gamecocks hinted they were capable of contending with Belmont and Murray State for the league championship this season before entering conference play. After its recent back-to-back losses, JSU will need to make a statement with a dominant victory to gain back some respect.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jacksonville State 65, SIU Edwardsville 56
01/10 10:34:15 ET