Sports

MVC melee pits Panthers against Salukis

Carbondale, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 18th-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers head to SIU Arena on Wednesday night to battle the Southern Illinois Salukis in Missouri Valley Conference action.

The Panthers, who trail only Wichita State in the league standings, have an identical overall record as the Shockers at 18-2. The team has won seven straight outings and nine of the last 10, resulting in a 7-1 mark in the MVC. Over the weekend, the Panthers were taken down to the wire in a 54-53 win at Illinois State.

The Salukis, who are 10-14 all-time at home versus nationally-ranked foes, are three games under .500 on the campaign and have posted only two wins in eight league bouts. The team recently snapped a seven-game slide with consecutive triumphs over Loyola and Bradley, but last Saturday the Salukis landed right back in the loss column with a 75-66 setback at Evansville.

The Panthers won the first meeting of the season versus SIU three weeks ago, 55-39. As a result, the all-time series now favors the Salukis by a 31-25 margin, although UNI has captured 11 of the last 15 encounters.

In a game that featured nine ties and seven lead changes, the Panthers bounced back from a 12-point deficit midway through the second half in order to pull out the narrow victory at Illinois State. Seth Tuttle was the top performer on both sides as he recorded a double-double consisting of 21 points and 10 rebounds, but the team nearly let one get away as they finished with almost as many turnovers (16) as field goals (18). It also didn't help that Northern Iowa was limited to just five offensive rebounds.

The weak effort on the offensive glass was somewhat surprising, given that just two games earlier the Panthers had registered a season-best 18 versus Missouri State at home. Then again, the Panthers did experience one game, against Denver, in which they were credited with only one rebound on offense.

In conference play, Tuttle paces the program both in the scoring department and on the boards with averages of 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest. But more than that, Tuttle is also tops with 24 assists in those games as well, helping to give the Panthers a scoring advantage of 9.8 ppg.

Allowing Evansville to make good on not only 61.1 percent from the floor in the first half but also 5-of-7 behind the 3-point line, the Salukis fell behind by 15 at the break and never recovered at the Ford Center. Anthony Beane tried to give the visitors a fighting chance with his 19 points, connecting on all eight of his free-throw tries, but he shot just 5-of-18 from the floor otherwise. Jordan Carolina pitched in with another 15 points as he made all but one of his six shots from the field.

Over the course of eight conference outings, the Salukis are struggling to make ends meet on offense, producing only 54.9 ppg while connecting on an awful 27.3 percent on the outside. Beane may be the only double-digit scorer to turn to with his 12.6 ppg, but he is also part of the larger problem with just 6-of-35 (.171) accuracy beyond the arc and 31.1 percent shooting from the floor overall.