APSU and Eastern Illinois will meet for the first time since the two sides battled it out in the 2018 Ohio Valley Conference Championship Tournament Quarterfinals at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.
The Govs Saturday, Jan. 19 matchup on paper will serve as a significantly harder test compared to their Thursday night performance with Southern Illinois University and Edwardsville. The Panthers sit at fifth in the OVC with a 3-1 conference record and at 10-7 overall.
That Thursday night affair saw Head Coach Matt Figger lead his team to overcome a 40-26 halftime deficit and advance to the 2018 OVC semifinals with a 73-66 win. Now senior Zach Glotta led the Govs with 21 points while former APSU basketball standout Averyl Ugba tallied 20 points in the showcase.
The Govs hold a seven-game win streak over the Panthers with the last loss coming in the form of an 87-86 overtime loss in January of 2016. APSU has firm control of the series in recent history by winning eight of the last 10 matchups.
The soon-to-be visitors have won four games in a row over Eastern Illinois in their 4 and a half hour, 237-mile journey to Lantz Arena and have come out on top in eight of their last 10 visits to the Panther’s blue and white palace.
Mack Smith was the leading scorer for the Panthers in the OVC tournament clash with 20 points while Montell Goodwin followed with 15 points of his own. Muusa Dama and Ray Crossland were the other Panthers who recorded in the double digits.
Of those four Panthers, Smith is the only one returning to the team.
EIU, however, is battled tested. The Panthers have met with some tough competition both in and out of the OVC, and have the firepower and reliance to stay pace with APSU despite what history says.
The Panthers opened their season with a 71-59 loss at the University of Texas. The Longhorns are now 10-6 on the season and hold a win over an Arkansas team that narrowly escaped APSU.
In conference, EIU survived an overtime scare from both SIUE and UT Martin. The Panthers battled close with a highly ranked Jacksonville State team.
Common opponents for the Govs are the Skyhawks of UTM and Fort Wayne. Both APSU and EIU found themselves in down to the wire contests with UTM, but the dichotomy comes from an APSU 27 point victory of Fort Wayne. The issue is that the Panthers lost to Fort Wayne by 44. The Mastodons shot red-hot 56 percent for three versus EIU and an ice-cold 26 percent behind the arc against the Govs.
In the preseason poll, EIU was picked to finish seventh in the conference, but they have worked to dispell that notion. With attention going to the big teams like Belmont and Mu**ay State, and APSU and Jacksonville State attracting the little remaining attention. The Panthers can be the sleeper team of the OVC. APSU will have their hands full in this one.