Last year the Eastern Illinois men's basketball team beat IUPUI 80-79 in the third game of the season. The Jaguars are going to look like a different team for Saturday's game in Indianapolis.
Aaron Brennan, T.J. Henderson and Ron Patterson were IUPUI's leading scorers last year and were three of the top four scorers in the game against EIU last season. Brennan and Patterson both graduated, and Henderson is no longer with the program so the Jaguars have to replace their top three scorers.
The Jaguars do return Jaylen Minnett, who came off the bench and scored 21 points in the season-opening loss to Xavier on Tuesday. Evan Hall returns and he scored 13 points against EIU last season. IUPUI also added transfers Camron Justice (Vanderbilt) and Ahmed Ismail (Manhattan). So the Jaguars looked to reload more than rebuild in Jason Gardner's fifth season.
"We had a really hard-fought game with them last year. They've got some key players returning from that team plus they added some players," EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said. "They will have a very experienced team and this time of the year, that's very valuable."
IUPUI is coming off an 11-19 season and had to travel to Xavier for its season-opening game on Tuesday. Xavier only had a three-point lead against IUPUI going into halftime before scoring 45 points in the second half to get enough separation for an 82-69 win.
"They played Xavier to a 13-point game on Tuesday and they were right there for a long time," Spoonhour said.
EIU opened the season with a 71-59 loss to Texas on Tuesday. Junior college transfer Rade Kukobat led EIU with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Mack Smith scored 11 points.
Spoonhour said senior point guard Terrell Lewis, who missed the game against Texas because of a preseason ankle injury, is doubtful for Saturday's game.
EIU had nine steals against Texas. Shareef Smith had four steals, and Kukobat and Josiah Wallace each had two steals. EIU averaged 5.9 steals a game last season.
The Panthers had a lead against Texas at multiple times in the first half when Texas went on a run in the final 3:50 to take a double-digit lead. Texas held onto that double-digit lead in the second half.