Indiana State (8-4) at Northern Iowa (7-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (7,018) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: PSN, ESPN3.com. Home Record: ISU 4-1, UNI 6-0. Away Record: ISU 2-2, UNI 1-2. Neutral Record: ISU 2-1, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: ISU 1-0, UNI 0-1. Series Record: Indiana State leads, 23-21.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Iowa Panthers attempt to stay unbeaten at home this season when they take on the Indiana State Sycamores in a Missouri Valley Conference showdown at the McLeod Center on Wednesday night.
Indiana State has suffered three losses to nationally ranked teams -- UCLA (86-59), New Mexico (77-68 in OT) and San Diego State (62-55) -- but otherwise it has been fantastic with wins in eight of its other nine games. The Sycamores have won two straight and four of their last five, most recently opening up MVC play on Sunday with a 77-75 home win over Illinois State.
UNI has not fared well away from home, and after its loss at Wichita State on Sunday afternoon (66-41), it is now just 1-6 combined in road and neutral- court games. The Panthers have plenty of reason for optimism in this one however, as they have been flawless at the McLeod Center in six tries, a run highlighted by an 82-75 win over Saint Mary's-CA on Dec. 23.
These two teams have played each other tight over the years, with Indiana State holding to a slim 23-21 advantage. The squads split the season series a year ago, with the home team winning each time.
After building a double-digit lead in its latest matchup, Indiana State allowed Illinois State to chip away at the lead to make it a one-possession game in the final minute, but the Sycamores were able to pull out the victory without surrendering their advantage. Although they shot a modest 43.3 percent from the field in the win, they were able to take advantage of plenty of trips to the foul line (21-of-31), and second-chance points by coming up with 17 offensive rebounds. Justin Gant tallied a double-double with 18 points and 11 boards, while Jake Odum stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Devonte Brown (12 points, seven rebounds) and Manny Arop (10 points) were also impressive in the triumph. On the season, Indiana State has won twice as often as it has lost by winning many close games, as it sports just a plus-2.2 scoring margin. Odum is one of the nation's most versatile guards, as he not only shoots 50 percent from the field for a team-high 14.7 ppg, but he also chips in with 5.0 rpg, 4.8 apg and 1.5 spg. Arop (13.1 ppg) and R.J. Mahurin (9.7 ppg) have also been strong scorers.
UNI was not as fortunate in its latest bout, as it put forth its worst offensive effort of the season in the 25-point loss to Wichita State, shooting just 32.6 percent from the field (including 3-of-17 from 3-point range) while being outrebounded by a 40-22 margin. The Panthers were without a double-digit scorer on the night, with Jack Koch leading the way with just seven points. While they are used to scoring more than they did this past weekend, they've still been a relatively poor shooting team, as their 68.2 ppg ranks eighth out of 10 MVC squads. Despite the spotty offensive production this year, UNI can count on its starting five for the most part, as each nets at least 9.2 ppg. Deon Mitchell paces the squad with 11.7 ppg, doing so on 50 percent field goal efficiency while handing out a team-high 3.4 apg. Koch (10.2 ppg) and Tuttle (9.8 ppg) have each been strong on the glass with at least 5.6 rpg apiece.
It's clear that Indiana State has been the more impressive team of late, but with UNI returning to the McLeod Center, most of its recent struggles can be overcome rather quickly. Expect a tight matchup, and for the Panthers to use the home court advantage to its advantage as they pull away late to earn the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 70, Indiana State 68
01/02 10:34:23 ET