Northern Iowa (7-7) at Illinois State (9-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Redbird Arena (10,000) -- Normal, Illinois. Television: Mediacom Connections. Home Record: UNI 6-1, ISU 6-2. Away Record: UNI 1-2, ISU 2-2. Neutral Record: UNI 0-4, ISU 1-1. Conference Record: UNI 0-2, ISU 0-2. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 36-26.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Iowa Panthers and Illinois State Redbirds both strive for their first Missouri Valley Conference victory of the season as they square off at Redbird Arena.
The Panthers fell to 0-2 in MVC action and 7-7 overall on Wednesday when it suffered a 65-61 setback to Indiana State on their on home floor. UNI has lost four of its last time games since its promising 6-3 start to the season. Coach Ben Jacobson's squad is performing poorly on both ends of the court so far as it is eighth in the conference in scoring offense (67.7 ppg) and just one slot better in scoring defense (64 ppg).
The start of league play was not as kind to Illinois State, as the Redbirds had a four-game win streak halted by a 77-75 loss at Indiana State on Sunday before they were defeated 79-72 by Creighton to drop to 0-2 in the conference standings. Illinois State's recent skid made it 9-4 on the season. Dan Muller has already gained the respect of many just 14 games into his head coaching career, as his team is leading the MVC with 79.9 ppg. However, the Redbirds are also second to last in the conference in scoring defense (69.0).
These teams split their season series in 2011-2012 with each defending its home floor successfully. Illinois State defeated UNI, 54-42, in the MVC Tournament to increase its all-time series lead to 36-26.
UNI was unsuccessful against the Sycamores on Wednesday despite Seth Tuttle tallying game-highs in both points (24) and rebounds (10). Anthony James added 12 points, six boards, and four assists for the Panthers, although he also committed six turnovers and shot just 6-of-16 from the floor. After entering the intermission trailing 37-32, the Panthers kept their deficit to single- digits throughout the second half, even making it a one possession game in the final minute, but they could never tie or take the lead. Deon Mitchell is netting team-best averages of 11.2 points and 3.3 assists, while Tuttle is chipping in 10.9 points and 5.9 boards per game. James, who is third on the team with 10.4 ppg, needs just three points to reach 1,000 for his career.
Illinois State played tough its last time out before the powerful Bluejays made a final push to put it out of reach in the closing minutes. Bryant Allen and Tyler Brown scored 15 points apiece and Jackie Carmichael added 10 for the Redbirds in the loss. Although he reached double figures, it was an off-night for Carmichael, who is filling up the stat sheet on a regular basis with 17.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Brown was also held under his average of 16.6 ppg by Creighton. Outside of Carmichael and Brown, none of the Redbirds are scoring in double figures regularly, but they are sharing the ball to the tune of 18 assists per outing, which is seventh best in the nation.
Illinois State's potent offensive system delivered it a handful of wins during its non-conference slate. It is only a matter of time before it translates over to the MVC. However, although UNI is 0-2 in the conference standings, it has a history of bouncing back from slow starts. The Panthers have a shot at escaping Normal with a victory if they can contain Carmichael.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 75, Northern Iowa 70
01/05 10:36:57 ET