Nebraska Omaha (8-17) at Western Illinois (17-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 7, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Western Hall (5,139) -- Macomb, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Nebraska Omaha 5-4. WIU 9-1. Away Record: Nebraska Omaha 2-12, WIU 6-4. Neutral Record: Nebraska Omaha 1-1, WIU 2-0. Conference Record: Nebraska Omaha 5-7, WIU 9-2. Series Record: Nebraska Omaha leads, 5-4.
GAMES NOTES: The Western Illinois Leathernecks will look to keep pace at the top of the Summit League standings when they host the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks in league play at Western Hall on Thursday night.
In its first season as a member of the Summit League things haven't exactly been easy for Nebraska Omaha. The Mavericks are just 8-17 overall on the season while managing a 5-7 mark in league play. The Mavericks did win three straight games before a 96-81 loss to Oakland last time out.
The Leathernecks are enjoying their best season as a Division I team as since being promoted they have never had a record of 17-5 or better. Western Illinois bounced back from a 67-60 loss to Oakland with a 68-59 win over IUPUI last Saturday. The win was the third in the last four games for the Leathernecks who are tied with North Dakota State and South Dakota State for first place in the Summit League standings.
When these teams met earlier this season Western Illinois rolled to an 89-74 road victory. It was the third straight win for the Leathernecks against the Mavericks, who still lead the all-time series, 5-4.
Despite shooting 52.3 percent from the floor against Oakland the Mavericks were unable to keep up with the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland shot a little better from the floor (.525) and had a 28-7 edge from the free-throw line in the contest. Justin Simmons (25 points) and C.J. Carter (21 points) each had major efforts in the loss.
Giving up such huge point totals has been a bad habit for Nebraska Omaha. The Mavericks are allowing the most points in the country (83.3 ppg) while teams shoot at a 48.8 percent clip. Nebraska Omaha has done its best to keep up as it ranks fourth in the Summit League in scoring (71 pg) and second in field goal percentage (.474). Simmons (15.5 ppg) has been lighting it up better than any other player, while John Karhoff (12.0 ppg) has served as the only other player in double figures.
Another strong defensive effort got Western Illinois past IUPUI. The Leathernecks forced 12 turnovers in the contest which led to 15 points. That was more than twice as many points as the Jaguars scored off takeaways (seven). The Leathernecks also had a 33-25 edge on the boards thanks to a double-double from Terell Parks (11 points, 10 rebounds).
Defense has been the key for Western Illinois this season. The Leathernecks have limited foes to the fourth lowest points per game in the country (52.5), while also keeping them to just 38.9 percent shooting. The Leathernecks also rank among the 20 best teams in the country in assists allowed (9.8 pg). With such impressive production on that end the Leathernecks haven't needed to be a prolific scoring team, averaging just 61 points per game, despite shooting a solid 46.8 percent from the field. Parks (12.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg) is a constant double-double threat as the league's best rebounder, while Ceola Clark (11.6 ppg, 4.2 apg) can score as well as spread the ball around.
Against one of the weaker teams in the Summit League, Western Illinois should easily be able to control the tempo and run away with yet another decision.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Illinois 68, Nebraska Omaha 54
02/07 10:36:55 ET