Southern Illinois (7-3) at Utah State (8-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 10:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270) -- Logan, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: SIU 3-0, USU 6-1. Away Record: SIU 3-2, USU 2-0. Neutral Record: SIU 1-1, USU 0-0. Conference Record: SIU 0-0, USU 0-0. Series Record: Southern Illinois leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: With a near-perfect record on the season, the Utah State Aggies try to close out the three-day World Vision Basketball Challenge with a sweep on Saturday night as they host the Southern Illinois Salukis in non-conference play at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Outside of a 67-58 loss to Saint Mary's-CA at home in just the second game of the campaign, the Aggies have been cruising along with one win after another. On Friday, the team took down the UC Davis Aggies in a 73-61 final, which means USU has now won seven straight games and is 8-1 on the season overall.
Meanwhile the Salukis, a team which is undefeated at home in three opportunities, bounced back from a 78-70 loss to UC Davis in the first set of games in this event on Thursday with a 65-53 triumph over Nicholls State yesterday, marking the team's third win in the last four outings overall.
The Salukis won both previous meetings with USU, the most recent of those coming in early 1997 when SIU captured a 67-64 victory at home.
SIU trailed by three points very early on against the Colonels on Friday, but then the defense came alive for the Salukis as they held the opposition to a mere 26.1 percent shooting from the floor in the first half, 36.2 percent for the game overall. Desmar Jackson recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, both of which were game highs, while Jeff Early cranked out a double-double of his own with 10 points and as many boards. Dantiel Daniels accounted for 13 points as he converted all but one of his six field goal tries for a team that managed to make just 2-of-14 on the perimeter. Jackson, the only player to have made double-digit 3-pointers at this stage, leads the team in scoring with 14.8 ppg and is second on the glass with close to six and a half rebounds per contest. Early checks in with 13.8 ppg and tops the rebounding list with 7.4 per game for a team that is beating the opposition on the glass by almost four per outing.
Down by as many as seven points midway through the first half, the Aggies turned to Preston Medlin to give them a boost and he responded by delivering a season-high 23 points as the hosts took down UC Davis by 12 points on Friday. Also scoring in double figures for USU were Spencer Butterfield and TeNale Roland with 14 and 11 points, respectively, while Kyisean Reed produced nine points, eight boards and a couple of assists as he fought through just 2-of-7 shooting from the floor. Medlin, the third different player to lead Utah State in scoring in as many games, is now second on the squad with his 13.3 ppg, trailing only Jarred Shaw who is putting up 13.9 ppg on the strength of his 56.8 percent accuracy from the floor. As a group, the Aggies are shooting an impressive 49.3 percent from the field which is far better than the competition, which checks in at a mere 40.9 percent.
Utah State has the talent and the crowd backing it in this series of games so there's no reason to think the team can't complete the three-day run and get its first-ever win against the Salukis in the process.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 71, Southern Illinois 63
12/22 10:39:59 ET