Illinois-Chicago (9-3) at Toledo (3-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 29, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Savage Hall (7,300) -- Toledo, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: UIC 5-0, Toledo 1-0. Away Record: UIC 2-2, Toledo 2-6. Neutral Record: UIC 2-1, Toledo 0-0. Conference Record: UIC 0-0, Toledo 0-0. Series Record: UIC leads, 5-1.
GAMES NOTES: The Toledo Rockets will play their first game in three weeks when they host the Illinois-Chicago Flames in a non-conference bout at Savage Hall on Saturday afternoon.
The Flames lost consecutive games for the first time this season after an 82-70 loss to Miami-Ohio last Saturday. Before the two losses the Flames had won nine of their first 10 games with the lone loss coming against a then ranked New Mexico squad. In terms of success on the road the Flames have managed to split four contests away from home. Next up for Illinois-Chicago is a matchup with Youngstown State.
A 67-59 victory on the road against Eastern Illinois was the last time Toledo played a regular season game. The Rockets did take on Siena Heights in a exhibition during the break. Toledo will be looking to build on that win as the Rockets are just 3-6 this season. Partially to blame is the schedule, which has featured eight road games where the Rockets are 2-6. Toledo faces Chicago State on Monday in its next game.
When these teams met last season Toledo earned its first win ever against the Flames. Illinois-Chicago had won the five previous matchups.
Despite shooting its best percentage in the last seven game (.472) against Miami-Ohio, the Flames couldn't get past the RedHawks. Illinois-Chicago was done in by its porous defensive effort as the Flames allowed Miami-Ohio to connect on 56.6 percent of its shots including 10-of-19 from beyond the arc. Gary Talton scored 15 points to pace the Flames in the loss.
Normally Illinois-Chicago is a rather stingy defensive team. The Flames are allowing just 55.7 points per game and limiting teams to 38.1 percent shooting this season. On the offensive side the Flames are not particularly effective as they score a meager 64.4 points per game and shoot below 40.0 percent. Talton (12.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.8 apg) is a talented guard that contributes across the board. He has also been a stellar thief, collecting 1.8 steals a game. Daniel Barnes (12.2 ppg) is also scoring in double figures, while Hayden Humes (11.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg) tops of the team's rebounding efforts.
In its win over Eastern Illinois, Toledo played exceptionally well on both ends. The Rockets hit on 59.1 percent of their shots from the floor and held the Panthers to just 36.0 percent shooting including a 6-of-24 effort in the first half. Rian Pearson kept up his elevated production with 22 points and nine rebounds.
Pearson (19.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is the leading scorer in the Mid-American Conference and has also managed to lead the Rockets on the boards as well. The 6-foot-4 guard has scored in double figures in all but one game and has scored more than 20 points three times. Julius Brown (14.9 ppg, 4.3 apg) is another prolific scoring guard but there is very little depth with the five starters and top reserve Reese Holliday (8.8 ppg) accounting for more than 95 percent of the teams total offensive production (69.8 ppg). Defensively, the Rockets don't slow teams down very well with opponents scoring 72.6 points per game despite shooting just 43.4 percent from the field.
With the way Pearson can score he is more than capable of carrying Toledo on the offensive end. Illinois-Chicago has looked less defensively dominant of late and could be in for a rough outing against a rested Rockets unit.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 72, Illinois-Chicago 66
12/29 10:38:34 ET