FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (10,000) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: UNI 9-2. Evansville 10-2. Away Record: UNI 2-4, Evansville 2-7. Neutral Record: UNI 0-4, Evansville 0-0. Conference Record: UNI 4-5,Evansville 5-4. Series Record: Evansville leads, 22-19.
GAMES NOTES: In a battle of Missouri Valley Conference foes the Northern Iowa Panthers will visit the Evansville Purple Aces at the Ford Center on Tuesday night.
A pair of free throws with one second left on the clock from Indiana State's Jake Odum put an end to a brief two-game winning streak for Northern Iowa last time out. With the loss the Panthers fell to 11-10 overall while posting a 4-5 league ledger. That mark has the Panthers tied with Bradley and Missouri State for fifth in the conference standings.
There was slightly less drama for Evansville on Saturday in a 67-62 loss to Illinois State. The setback was the third in the last four games for Evansville. Evansville is a spot ahead of Northern Iowa in the conference standings at 5-4.
In recent years Evansville has consistently earned the upper hand against Northern Iowa. The Purple Aces have won four straight and five of the last six matchups, including a 62-59 win on the road earlier this month. Evansville has a 22-19 all-time series lead.
In a game that featured four ties and 11 lead changes neither Northern Iowa nor Indiana State was able to get out to a lead of more than seven points. With 57 seconds remaining the Panthers trailed 57-54 but they quickly ripped off four straight points and took a 58-57 lead with four seconds remaining on a jump shot from Anthony James. However Koch fouled Odum on the Sycamores' last possession, sending him to the line for the winning free throws.
The Panthers are a rather balanced offensive squad with five different players scoring at least 9.5 points per game, four of which average in double figures. James (12.6 ppg) is the lead scoring option. Seth Tuttle (11.1 ppg, 6.1 ppg) and Jake Koch (10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) have paired up to provide strong scoring and rebounding efforts on the campaign. Deon Mitchell (10.4 ppg) and Marc Sonnen (9.6 ppg) have also been able to contribute offensive punch in the starting lineup. The Panthers lack scorers off the bench though, with Matt Bohannon (4.9 ppg) the only one scoring more than 4.5 points a game. The Panthers have a scoring margin of +5.4 on the season, while shooting at the third best percentage from the field in the MVC (.457).
Despite a season-high 18 points from Ned Cox, the Purple Aces were yet again thwarted on the road against Illinois State. The Purple Aces shot at just a 41.1 percent clip and a 21-11 deficit on points from the free-throw line proved too much to overcome.
In that loss leading scorer Colt Ryan (17.2 ppg, 3.8 apg) continued his offensive assault by putting in 17 points. The 6-foot-5 swingman is actually scoring more than three points fewer per game this season than the last one but he has scored in double figures in 10 straight games, including six contests with more than 20. Cox (11.1 ppg) is the only other player on the squad scoring in double figures. With the lack of offensive options Evansville hasn't been overly successful on that end of the floor. The Purple Aces are scoring 68.7 points per game, while shooting 44.1 percent from the field. Evansville does do a good job of moving the ball though, ranking second in the conference and 30th in the country in assists (15.6 apg).
When they play at home the Purple Aces are just a different team. Against one of the few teams they have managed to top on the road, Evansville should keep the success at home going.