Eastern Illinois (3-9) at Drake (5-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 3:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Knapp Center (7,152) -- Des Moines, Iowa. Television: None. Home Record: EIU 1-5, Drake 2-1. Away Record: EIU 0-4, Drake 1-1. Neutral Record: EIU 2-0, Drake 2-3. Conference Record: EIU 0-0, Drake 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAMES NOTES: The struggling Eastern Illinois Panthers will face off with the Drake Bulldogs in a non-conference matchup at the Knapp Center on Saturday afternoon.
After a 72-45 rout by Saint Louis on Wednesday, Eastern Illinois has now lost five straight games. The Panthers are now 3-9 overall, including an 0-4 mark against teams on the road. Eastern Illinois' last victory came back on Nov. 24 when the Panthers took down Houston Baptist 64-44 at home. Eastern Illinois will open up Ohio Valley Conference play against Tennessee State in its next matchup.
Drake slipped by North Carolina Central 72-69 at the Knapp Center on Wednesday to even up its record at 5-5. The victory was the second in three games for the Bulldogs who have yet to win back-to-back contests this year. Drake is 2-1 at the Knapp Center with the lone loss coming against Saint Mary's earlier this month. Drake also has its league opener next when it travels to face Bradley.
This will be the first ever meeting between these two programs.
The Panthers just didn't have an answer for Saint Louis defensively on Wednesday. The Billikens turned in a 57.5 percent shooting effort and outscored the Panthers by a 27-15 margin from 3-point range and a 17-2 advantage from the charity stripe. Alex Austin scored 17 points as the only Panther in double figures.
Even when it has played solid defense Eastern Illinois has been unable to post wins due to weak offensive production. The Panthers are scoring an OVC-worst 56.1 points per game and shooting at a 41.1 percent clip. The Panthers allow teams to hit on 46.5 percent of their field goal attempts while collecting a lowly 28.5 rebounds per game. Austin (9.2 ppg) has picked up some of the scoring slack recently with point totals of 21 and 17 in the last two games, respectively. Josh Piper (11.5 ppg) is the only player on the roster scoring in double figures on a more regular basis, while Sherman Blanford provides the only other scoring average above eight points.
With the game tied 66-66 with 2:23 remaining Drake scored back-to-back baskets to take a 70-66 lead against North Carolina Central. The Bulldogs then hit a pair of free throws in the final minute and didn't allow NCC to hit on three shots from beyond the arc in the final 30 seconds. Seth Vendeest scored 19 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Drake has had much more success on the offensive side of the ball than Eastern Illinois. The Bulldogs are scoring 76.4 points per game which ranks third in the MVC and 52nd nationally. Drake has been victim to some high-scoring efforts by opponents though, as the Bulldogs allow 73.7 points per game and are victims of a -5.4 margin on the boards. Ben Simons (15.3 ppg) is the top scoring option. The 6-foot-8 forward spreads the floor and really relies on his shots from 3-point range. VanDeest (11.9 ppg), Richard Carter (10.4 ppg) and Jordan Clarke (9.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) are other consistent scoring options.
There are far too many offensive options for the high-scoring Bulldogs for Eastern Illinois to hope to keep up with. Drake should win easily at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drake 78, Eastern Illinois 65
12/22 10:35:38 ET