FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Drake 5-3, UNI 7-2. Away Record: Drake 2-3, UNI 2-3. Neutral Record: Drake 1-3, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: Drake 2-4, UNI 2-4. Series Record: Northern Iowa leads, 36-24.
GAME NOTES: A couple of Missouri Valley Conference squads near the bottom of the league standings get together on Sunday afternoon as the Northern Iowa Panthers entertain the Drake Bulldogs at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls.
For the second time this season the Bulldogs are attempting to put together a three-game win streak. The squad missed the mark last month after back-to-back victories over North Carolina Central and Eastern Illinois, but they are ready to give it another go thanks to an 82-77 triumph over Illinois State last weekend and an 83-69 victory versus Evansville on Wednesday night.
With those last two wins Drake is now 2-4 in conference play, which is where UNI stands as well, as they entered the weekend ahead of only Southern Illinois and Illinois State in the MVC.
The Panthers have been inconsistent the last several weeks, last winning consecutive games in early December. The squad is coming off a 79-68 defeat at the hands of nationally-ranked Creighton on Tuesday in Omaha.
Drake has won three of the six meetings played at the McLeod Center, but still the Panthers are ahead in the all-time series by a count of 36-24.
The Bulldogs led by only one point against Evansville at the break the last time out, but the squad came out firing in the second half as they connected on 65.2 percent from the floor, including a sizzling 7-of-9 from beyond the arc, en route to the double-digit win over the Purple Aces in Des Moines. Chris Hines dropped in 21 points as he converted all but one of his six 3- point tries, followed by Ben Simons (18 points), Richard Carter (13) and Seth VanDeest (11) in the triumph. Simons, one of two players to have started every game, accounts for 14.7 ppg, followed by Hines (10.3 ppg) and VanDeest (10.2 ppg). Jordan Clarke, who tallied only four points against Evansville, cleared nine rebounds which improved his team-best average to 8.1 rpg, but still the group is being beaten on the glass by almost four per game.
Not too many teams have their way against Creighton and All-American Doug McDermott these days, but for a time it appeared that UNI might have the upper hand in their meeting earlier this week. Unfortunately, the Panthers ended up shooting just 4-of-15 from 3-point range and went to the free-throw line only six times, in an 11-point setback. Anthony James tried to keep it together for the visitors as he tallied a team-best 25 points, adding six rebounds, three assists and three steals to his stat line, while Jake Koch responded with another 19 points, although he missed all four chances on the perimeter. Although he is shooting just 29.4 percent from 3-point range on the season, James is still lead a quartet of double-digit scorers with his 12.5 ppg. Close behind are Seth Tuttle (11.2 ppg), Deon Mitchell (10.3 ppg) and Koch (10.1 ppg), who also takes care of action in the paint with 6.4 rpg and 22 of the unit's 43 blocked shots.
The Bulldogs may have had some luck in this building in the past, but if UNI is going to pick up victories these days, expect it to be in the friendly confines of the McLeod Center.