Idaho State (1-8) at Eastern Washington (2-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 5:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reese Court (6,000) -- Cheney, Washington. Television: None. Home Record: Idaho State 1-0, EWU 1-3. Away Record: Idaho State 0-6, EWU 0-5. Neutral Record: Idaho State 0-2, EWU 1-1. Conference Record: Idaho State 0-1, EWU 0-1. Series Record: EWU leads, 37-27.
GAMES NOTES: A pair of Big Sky Conference teams desperate for a win will square off on Saturday when the Idaho State Bengals battle the Eastern Washington Eagles at Reese Court.
On Thursday, Idaho State lost its conference opener in a 63-49 decision to Portland State. With that loss, not only did the Bengals get off on the wrong foot in league play, they also lost for the third straight game and the eighth time in nine tries overall. The Bengals' lone win of the season came in its only home contest against Montana Western.
The season hasn't gone much better for Eastern Washington which kicked off the current two-game homestand with a 74-53 loss in its league opener to Weber State. The defeat was the third straight for the Eagles who are just 2-9 overall and 1-3 at home. The team's last win came at the end of November at Reese Court over Cal State Fullerton.
These teams met during the first round of last season's Big Sky Tournament. The Eagles came away with an 91-75 victory in the matchup and also swept the season series last year to push its all-time advantage to 37-27.
The Bengals were able to hang around with Portland State and went into halftime tied 28-28. The wheels came off for Idaho State in the second half when the Vikings ripped off an 11-0 run to take a 58-46 lead and coast to the victory. Melvin Morgan scored 17 points and was the only player for the Bengals in double figures.
It was no surprise to see Idaho State struggle to put up points against Portland State. The Bengals are the second-worst scoring team in the country (49.6 ppg), while ranking in the bottom nationally in field goal percentage (.387) as well. All those misses have not resulted in more rebounds for the Bengals who are the third-worst team in the glass (26.2 pg) amongst Division I programs. With opponents scoring just 60.7 points per game, it is not as if Idaho State has been lit up on defense. Morgan (13.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.0 apg) has really been the only offensive bright spot, although at 37.2 percent shooting, he could still stand to improve. Chris Hansen (9.2 ppg) and Tomas Sanchez (9.1 ppg) are the only other players scoring more than six points a contest.
Poor shooting also sank Eastern Washington in its loss to Weber State. The Eagles only managed to hit on 34.0 percent of their field goal attempts including a 4-of-16 showing from beyond the arc. A 41-28 disadvantage on the boards didn't help matters either. Venky Jois still managed to turn in a solid performance with 21 points.
For Eastern Washington it has been the poor defensive showings that have largely kept it out of the win column. The Eagles are letting up 82.4 points per game, which is the fourth worst mark in the country, while teams shoot at a 48.0 percent clip. Eastern Washington itself scores 71.9 ppg by letting it fly from beyond the arc. The Eagles have attempted the most shots from 3-point range in the country (312) and have hit 34.9 percent of those. Justin Crosgile (15.3 ppg) and Jois (13.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg) have managed to score well but the team has missed Colin Chiverton (11.0 ppg), who has been out the last five games for personal reasons.
Eastern Washington can't stop teams from scoring and Idaho State can't score itself. Eastern Washington has the edge in this contest at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 71, Idaho State 58
12/22 10:35:42 ET