Western Illinois (5-3) at Eastern Illinois (3-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 5, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lantz Arena (5,223) -- Charleston, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Western Illinois 1-0, Eastern Illinois 1-3. Away Record: Western Illinois 2-3, Eastern Illinois 0-3. Neutral Record: Western Illinois 2-0, Eastern Illinois 2-0. Conference Record: Western Illinois 0-0, Eastern Illinois 0-0. Series Record: Eastern Illinois leads 77-76.
GAMES NOTES: Two teams heading in opposite directions will meet when the Western Illinois Leathernecks and the Eastern Illinois Panthers square off in an instate battle at Lantz Arena.
The Leathernecks have won back-to-back games, both on the road, after a 68-63 victory over UMKC. Playing on the road has been a familiar occurrence for Western Illinois which has not played on its home floor since its season opener. Still the Leathernecks have a solid 5-3 record, but only 2-3 in true road games. The Leathernecks will get a payoff for the long road-trip with a season-long seven-game homestand beginning against SIU-Edwardsville.
On the other side the Panthers have lost consecutive games and three of four to drop to 3-6 overall this season. During that time the Panthers can't fall back on playing away from home as three of those games were at Lantz Arena. In fact Eastern Illinois is just 1-3 at home this season. The Panthers continue this current two-game home stint before a five-game road trip.
This the longest running active rivalry for both of these squads with 154 total meetings entering this contest, The series has been just about dead even with Eastern Illinois leading it 77-76. Western Illinois posted a 64-48 victory last year.
Western Illinois led wire-to-wire against UMKC and hit all four free throws in the final minute to secure the victory. The Leathernecks connected on 45.8 percent of their shots from the field but were outscored by a slim margin from beyond the arc (24-21). That discrepancy came despite Ceola Clark's outburst, as he nailed five triples and finished with 27 points.
Despite its winning record, Western Illinois has been a rather lackluster offensive squad. The Leathernecks score only 58.8 points per game and shoot 44.4 percent from the field. It has been the team's defensive efforts that have secured it a winning record as Western Illinois allows just 53.5 points per game on 39.4 percent shooting. The Leathernecks' defensive scoring average is the ninth best in the nation. Clark (14.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Terell Parks (13.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg) have taken on a large chunk of the scoring load. They are the only players scoring in double figures and two of just four scoring more than six points per game. Adam Link (8.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Don McAvoy (7.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) are other starters making contributions.
Eastern Illinois was dropped by Stony Brook 66-52 in a game in which the Panthers shot just 34.0 percent from the floor, while getting only six points from the free-throw line. The Panthers did succeed in hitting 10-of-23 shots from beyond the arc but also allowed 10 triples from the Seawolves. Josh Piper scored 14 points and was the only player in double figures for EIU.
Piper has become accustomed to carrying the Panthers on the offensive end. The 6-foot-8 forward is scoring 12.1 points per game and is the only member of the team to be averaging double figures. Piper (5.2 rpg) can also clean up on the glass, while Sherman Blanford (9.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) leads the team on the boards by a slim margin. Morris Woods (8.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) is the only other player scoring more than eight points a game. With a lack of offensive depth the Panthers are netting just 58.2 points per game, on 41.5 percent shooting from the field. Also like the Leathernecks, the Panthers have managed to stay close in games allowing 61.3 points per game. In fact, three of the team's last four losses have come by eight points or less.
This game promises to be a low-scoring affair where points will be at a premium. Western Illinois has more scorers and has the battle-tested resume on the road to earn the win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Illinois 62, Eastern Illinois 58
12/05 10:37:35 ET