Southern Illinois (11-15) at Creighton (21-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, February 19, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CenturyLink Center Omaha (17,390) -- Omaha, Nebraska. Television: Cox 2, ESPN FullCourt, ESPN3. Home Record: SIU 7-4, Creighton 13-2. Away Record: SIU 3-10, Creighton 6-4. Neutral Record: SIU 1-1, Creighton 2-0. Conference Record: SIU 4-11, Creighton 10-5. Series Record: Creighton leads, 52-36.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Illinois Salukis look to stay hot as they visit the CenturyLink Center Omaha to battle the Creighton Bluejays in Missouri Valley Conference action.
SIU picked up its second consecutive win and third in four games on Saturday as it held off Missouri State for a 62-54 decision. The victory upped the Salukis to an 11-15 overall record but it is still in sole possession of last place in the MVC standings. The school had not won back-to-back games in MVC action since early January of 2012, a span of 29 games, before downing the Bears.
Coach Barry Hinson employs a smaller lineup than most, but Jeff Early helps make up for the lack of size by leading all Division I players shorter than 6- foot-1 with 7.3 rebounds per tilt. Desmar Jackson is leading the squad in scoring with 15.4 ppg and is second to Early with 5.6 rpg. The Salukis are in the middle of the pack in both scoring and scoring defense but do allow opposing teams to shoot 46.6 percent from the field and just under 39 percent from 3-point range.
SIU will be a big underdog in this one after being demolished, 81-51, by Creighton in Carbondale on Jan. 27. The Bluejays coasted to the 30-point victory by hitting on 63 percent of their field-goal tries including 12-of-20 from beyond the arc while holding the Salukis to 31.3 percent field-goal efficiency. The decision gave Creighton a 52-36 all-time series edge.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays cannot afford any more losses in MVC action as they chase after the first place Wichita State Shockers. Creighton clipped Evansville on the road on Saturday to end a season-long three-game losing slide. Doug McDermott posted 21 points and 10 boards for the squad that was No. 16 in the polls just a week before. Creighton shot 52.2 percent from the field including a 9-of-18 clip from beyond the arc and converted 14-of-17 at the free-throw line. The Purple Aces held a 34-24 edge in the rebounding battle, but Creighton limited them to 40 percent shooting from the floor to take home the decision.
Although McDermott's 22.9 points per game make him the second leading scorer among Division I players and his 7.8 rebounds per contest are the most by any Bluejay, Creighton is not a one-dimensional team. The 6-foot-9 Gregory Echenique is one of the league's top centers due to his defensive presence, but he also contributes 9.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per tilt. Grant Gibbs, Ethan Wragge and Austin Chatman have all played vital roles in building the team's 21-6 overall record. The Bluejays, who lead the MVC in scoring at 76.7 ppg and have the second-highest field-goal percentage in the nation (.508), have been very tough at home with a 13-2 record in Omaha.
The Bluejays need to gain some steam as March quickly approaches. Creighton may not have a team this talented for a long time after this season and both McDermotts know it would be a shame to let it go to waste. Although the Salukis are definitely a much better team than they were when they first took on Creighton, they will find it very difficult to avoid the sweep in Omaha.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Creighton 76, Southern Illinois 59
02/19 10:33:38 ET