Tennessee-Martin (4-15) at Eastern Illinois (4-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 24, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lantz Arena (5,400) -- Charleston, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Tennessee-Martin 4-5. EIU 1-7. Away Record: Tennessee-Martin 0-10, EIU 1-9. Neutral Record: Tennessee-Martin 0-0, EIU 2-0. Conference Record: Tennessee-Martin 1-6, EIU 1-6. Series Record: Tied, 17-17.
GAMES NOTES: Fresh off their first win in nearly two months the Eastern Illinois Panthers are set to host the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks in a battle of Ohio Valley Conference foes at Lantz Arena.
With an 88-74 loss to Morehead State in their last outing, the Skyhawks have now lost three straight contests and 10 of their last 11. On the season the Skyhawks are just 4-15 overall with just a single win in seven tries against conference foes. Heading on the road has been a perilous venture for the Skyhawks who have failed to earn a win in all 10 of their trips off campus. Tennessee-Martin travels to take on SIU Edwardsville next.
With a 77-67 victory on the road over Austin Peay last Saturday, the Panthers got into the win column for the first time since a 64-44 victory over Houston Baptist on Nov. 24. In the time between the Panthers had lost 12 straight contests. Eastern Illinois is just 4-16 overall this season. Like the Skyhawks, the Panthers have also managed just a single win in seven chances against OVC competition. The team has also struggled at home with an ugly 1-7 mark. Up next the Panthers host SE Missouri State.
Last season Eastern Illinois earned a series sweep to avenge losing both contests in the previous season to Tennessee-Martin.
Despite 10 3-pointers and outscoring Morehead State 28-13 from the free-throw line, Tennessee-Martin didn't shoot well enough from the floor overall to top Morehead State. The Skyhawks connected on 34 percent of their field goal attempts and were outscored 36-16 on points in the paint.
While not an overly effective offensive squad, Tennesse-Martin hasn't been the worst scoring squad in the conference. The Skyhawks are averaging 65.7 points per game, despite shooting a conference-worst 38.3 percent from the field. Myles Taylor (16.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg) has been doing all he can to carry the Skyhawks, ranking in the top 10 in the OVC in both scoring and rebounding. Mike Liabo (12.7 ppg) is the only other player averaging in double figures but, his 35.4 field-goal percentage needs work.
Eastern Illinois ran out to a 37-25 lead at halftime and then held on down the stretch to top Austin Peay. The Panthers connected on 54.2 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes. Despite cooling to 40.7 percent in the second half, the Panthers made good on 16-of-18 shots from the free-throw line to secure the victory.
As a team the Panthers are scoring an OVC worst 57.3 points per game, while shooting at a 42.6 percent clip. Part of the problem is that Eastern Illinois doesn't create enough opportunities for itself as it ranks dead last in the conference in possessions per 40 minutes (60.9). Defensively speaking the Panthers hold their own, surrendering 64.7 points per game. Josh Piper (10.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Sherman Blanford (10.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg) are the only consistent scorers on the squad.
It took an uncharacteristically strong first half on the offensive end for Eastern Illinois to end its losing streak. It's unlikely they will be able to replicate that even against Tennessee-Martin.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee-Martin 66, Eastern Illinois 64
01/24 10:36:05 ET