Teams looking to build momentum
Southern Illinois (4-2) at Evansville (2-6) – Wednesday – 7 pm – ESPN+
Southern Illinois opened the season with two wins including their upset of Oklahoma State. They’ve gone 2-2 since then, splitting games with two Ohio Valley Conference teams and splitting their two contests at the SoCal Challenge.
Bryan Mullins’ team still plays stingy defense (59.17 ppg) and All-Valley forward Marcus Domask is having a great year, but the Saluki offense has struggled (63 ppg). Only Domask and guard Lance Jones are averaging double figures in scoring and the Salukis struggle with the long ball.
First-year Evansville head coach David Ragland has his team playing well but struggling to gain victories. The Purple Aces won their opener and then lost five straight games against some very stiff competition. They played well and lost at Saint Louis and at SMU. Saturday’s win over Robert Morris snapped that streak, but then they lost to Fairfield in the final game of the Hostilo Hoops Community Classic.
With virtually an entirely new roster the Aces are gaining traction and learning their roles, but UE is last in the league in virtually every offensive category. Wednesday’s game is Evansville’s second home game of the year.
Northern Iowa (2-3) at Bradley (4-3) – Wednesday 7 pm – ESPN+
These two teams have battled injuries. UNI lost starting center Austin Phyfe before the season started and shortly into the campaign, starting guard Nate Heise went down with a hand injury.
As the season was getting underway, Bradley lost starting center Rienk Mast and shortly into it starting guard Zek Montgomery went down with a hand injury. Sound familiar? Bradley also lost the services of veteran forward Ja’Shon Henry with concussion problems that threaten the rest of his career.
Phyfe will have his blood clot problems reevaluated around Christmas and Heise cold rejoin the team around that same time. Meanwhile, Mast (knee) made his season debut this past weekend, but the Braves are still missing Montgomery (around the end of the year) and have no timetable for Henry.
Forward Malevy Leons has stepped up in a huge way in Bradley’s frontcourt. Leons scored 32 points Saturday and leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Guard Bowen Born is providing a similar lift for the Panthers. The 5’11 guard scored 30 points on Saturday and leads UNI in scoring and assists.
The winner of this game will feel like they are playing with house money.