Western Michigan (6-2) at Illinois State (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Redbird Arena (10,000) -- Normal, Illinois. Television: Comcast SportsNet Chicago, ESPN3. Home Record: WMU 3-0, ISU 3-1. Away Record: WMU 1-2, ISU 1-1. Neutral Record: WMU 2-0, ISU 1-1. Conference Record: WMU 0-0, ISU 0-0. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 5-2.
GAME NOTES: Illinois State will try to turn things around as it hosts the Western Michigan Broncos for a non-conference tilt at Redbird Arena.
The Broncos are also in recovery mode after suffering a 73-41 setback to the mighty Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday. The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for WMU, which is tied for Ohio University for the best record in the Mid-American Conference with a 6-2 mark through eight games. The team's only other loss came in its season opener at Cornell. Coach Steve Hawkins have implemented a tough defensive mentality that has yielded a scoring defense average of only 59.5 ppg. WMU is netting 64.8 ppg on 42.3 percent shooting from the floor on the offensive end.
Illinois State led by 14 points at halftime its last time out, but did not show up for the second half which allowed Wyoming to cruise to an 81-67 decision. The Redbirds' losing slide began in the championship round of the South Padre Invitational when they came up just short and fell in overtime to Northwestern. First-year head coach Dan Muller then nearly guided his team to a road upset of Louisville, but ended up falling 69-66 to Rick Pitino's squad. Illinois State is now 5-3 with an 11.8 point per game average margin of victory. Muller's offensive intuition has led to an 80.4 ppg average on 50.6 percent shooting from the floor. The Redbirds are 5-0 when they reach the 70- point mark, but winless when held to 69 points or less.
This will be the eighth meeting between these schools on the hardwood. The Broncos hold a 5-2 all-time series lead, but are just 1-2 in games played at Illinois State.
WMU had a terrible outing versus the Wolverines on Saturday as it converted just 28.9 percent of its field goal attempts including a horrendous 2-of-17 mark from 3-point range. The Broncos also committed 18 turnovers, while Michigan knocked down an even 50 percent of its shots from the field and assisted 18 of its 29 makes. Freshman forward Darius Paul recorded a double- double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but he was the only Bronco to score in double-figures in the rout. Senior forward Nate Hutcheson, who leads the squad in scoring with 12.8 ppg, was held to six points on 3-of-11 shooting. Senior guard Brandon Pokley (10.4 ppg) also had a forgettable outing with three points, zero assists, and three turnovers.
ISU led the undefeated Wyoming Cowboys by as many as 19 in the first half, but the Redbirds allowed a 14-0 run after the break which put the visitors in position to climb back on top. Illinois State shot 50 percent from the floor including an 11-of-25 clip from beyond the arc, but those rates were not enough to counteract the Cowboys' red-hot second half in which they converted 64 percent of their field goal attempts and 17-of-18 at the free throw line. The Redbirds committed 20 turnovers in the loss. Senior guard Tyler Brown scored 22 points with the help of five makes from long distance, while junior forward Jon Ekey chipped in 13 points with a 3-of-4 conversion rate from behind the arc. Brown is second among Missouri Valley Conference players with 20 ppg, while Jackie Carmichael ranks fifth with 15.3 ppg.
Both these mid-major squads have been impressive early on this season. All three of the Redbirds' losses came to teams that seem destined for postseason play. Although WMU's last game was against one of the best teams in the nation, its lack of competitiveness in the defeat did little to inspire hope that it will be able to hand ISU its fourth loss in a row.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 76, Western Michigan 67
12/08 10:33:37 ET