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Eastern Illinois (9-17) at Belmont (20-8)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 20, 8 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Curb Event Center (5,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: EIU 6-7, Belmont 11-1. Away Record: EIU 3-10, Belmont 7-7. Neutral Record: EIU 0-0, Belmont 2-0. Conference Record: EIU 6-8, Belmont 11-2. Series Record: Belmont leads, 2-1.

GAME NOTES: The Eastern Illinois Panthers make the jaunt to Music City to take on the Belmont Bruins, in Ohio Valley Conference action at Curb Event Center on Thursday night.

Eastern Illinois sits in third place in the West Division of the OVC, but has lost its last three coming into this game. Most recently, the Panthers fell to Murray State on the road last Saturday, 72-60.

Belmont has been much more successful of late, having won three straight and eight of its last nine, including a 73-71 victory over Tennessee State at home last Thursday night. The Bruins sit atop the East Division with a game and half lead over Morehead State.

This is the first and only meeting in the regular season, and only the third meeting all-time between the programs. Belmont leads the series, 2-1, winning last season at EIU, 80-49.

In the recent loss to Murray State, Sherman Blanford led all scorers with 26 points for the Panthers, adding eight rebounds to his stat line. Chris Olivier notched 14 points in the loss. Trailing 32-27 at intermission, the Panthers connected on 40 percent from the floor, but hit only one of their six 3-point attempts and fell further behind in the period, as the Racers improved to 55 percent shooting in the second half.

Blanford, who was just named the OVC Player of the Week, leads the Panthers in both scoring and rebounding, at 14.3 points and 7.5 caroms per contest, and he has been on a tear of late, averaging 26.4 points over the last five contests. Reggie Smith is listed as the only other double-digit scorer for the program with 12.8 ppg, and he is first with 68 assists, but finished with just two points against Murray State. As a unit, the Panthers net just 67.1 ppg, second-worst in the OVC, and are giving up 73.4 ppg.

J.J. Mann scored 21 points as the Bruins held off the Tennessee State Tigers last Thursday. Reece Chamberlain contributed 19 points and six assists, Craig Bradshaw added 10 points and Evan Bradds pulled down a team-high nine boards in the win. Belmont took control in the early stages of the contest and jumped out to a 25-10 lead midway through the first half. The Tigers scored 13 unanswered points to cut the deficit to just two before they went into the intermission trailing, 37-33. Belmont managed to hang on for the decision despite being outrebounded, 22-15, over the final 20 minutes. Mann converted a pair of three throws with 18 seconds left in regulation to give the Bruins a 73-69 lead before a layup by the Tigers just before the final buzzer sounded set the final score.

Mann and Bradshaw have shined for Belmont this season, with the former being tops on the team with 18.0 ppg, while the latter checks at 15.9 ppg. Chamberlain, who leads the team with 114 assists, is third with 11.3 ppg, while Drew Windler chips in 10.1 ppg for the balanced Bruin scoring attack. Blake Jenkins tops the Bruins in rebounding at 4.9 rpg. They are scoring at a healthy 79.8 ppg clip, good for second in the OVC, but giving up 75.7 ppg at the defensive end. They are knocking down league-bests both from the field overall (.497) as well as from 3-point range (.393).

Despite the emergence of Blanford as a legitimate scoring threat, the Bruins are too deep and playing at a much higher level than the Panthers and should have no trouble continuing their winning ways and keep their lead atop the OVC.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 78, Eastern Illinois 70

02/20 10:17:43 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
Final
CHI 103
NYK 97
Final
HOU 90
NOP 99
3rd
SAC 69
MIL 65
 
2nd
GSW 60
OKC 52
 
Final
RICE 72
STTHOMASTX 61
 
Final
UVA 70
CLST 54
Final
LIU 69
FIU 58
 
Final
STET 67
GSOUT 76
 
Final
QUIN 80
LEH 65
 
Final
SFLA 69
SHU 89
Final
RICH 65
SALA 54
Final
CAN 60
USB 59
 
Final
DEL 62
TEMPL 82
Final
WCU 56
WRST 69
 
Final
VERM 56
YALE 57
 
Final
SDKST 75
IDST 72
 
Final
RIDE 62
MRGST 48
 
Final
LATU 79
NICST 54
 
Final
CHAR 75
APP 65
Final
MISS 71
CCAR 68
 
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
Final
BRAD 80
EUREK 38
 
Final
PEAY 76
OAKC 52
 
Final
JST 66
SMISS 46
 
Final
SD 55
MNTST 53
 
Final
UAB 70
LSU 79
Final
EVAN 81
OHIO 69
 
2nd
CSFU 62
CSDH 43
 
2nd
ORST 65
DEP 42
 
2nd
PAC 48
NEV 41
 
2nd
USF 77
PORST 35
 
2nd
IDAHO 75
WALLA 31
 
2nd
UTST 37
CALST 28
 
Final
PIT 1
COL 0
Final
PHI 1
FLA 2
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
CLB 4
WAS 5
Final
MON 1
ANA 2
2nd
SJS 1
EDM 1
 
2nd
LOS 1
STL 3
 
Final
JAC 21
TEN 13