Denver (17-8) at Northern Iowa (17-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Denver 10-2, UNI 12-2. Away Record: Denver 7-6, UNI 5-5. Neutral Record: Denver 0-0, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: Denver 13-2, UNI 10-6. Series Record: UNI leads, 2-0.
GAMES NOTES: Looking to match their longest winning streak of the season the Denver Pioneers will battle the Northern Iowa Panthers as part of BracketBusters weekend at the McLeod Center.
With a 62-41 victory over San Jose State, Denver has now won six straight contests and 13 of its last 14 matchups. The Pioneers, who are 17-8 overall on the season won seven straight contests earlier in the campaign. Denver has risen to the second spot in the Western Athletic Contest with 13 wins in 15 league tilts. Denver wraps up the season with a three-game homestand beginning next Saturday against New Mexico State.
Northern Iowa is also riding a wave of momentum into this contest with wins in six straight contests as well. The Panthers boast a 17-11 overall record at this point in the season which includes a stellar 12-2 mark at the McLeod Center. Northern Iowa will get back to Missouri Valley Conference action on Wednesday against Southern Illinois.
Northern Iowa took victories in the first two meetings between these squads during the 2008 and 2009 season.
Denver hounded San Jose State on the defensive end to roll to a victory last time out. The Pioneers held the Spartans to just 13 field goals on 31.7 percent shooting, while outscoring them 21-6 in points off turnovers. On the other end of the floor the Pioneers hit 53.3 percent of their field-goal attempts.
Efficient offense and defense has been the key for Denver this season. The team ranks at the top of the WAC in field-goal percentage (.479) and assists (16.2 pg) with each of those marks among the 20 best in the country. The Pioneers also limit foes to just 54.9 points per game which is the sixth best opponent field-goal percentage in the nation. Chris Udofia (12.4 ppg) shoots 50.6 percent from the field as one of three players in double figures. Royce O'Neale (11.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.4 apg) provides solid efforts across the board and Brett Olson (10.5 ppg) is lethal from 3-point distance where he shoots at a 42.6 percent rate.
Northern Iowa got just its fifth win on the road with a 69-63 victory against Missouri State last time out. The Panthers had a 14-4 edge in points off turnovers and shot a 45.8 percent clip from the field in the contest. The Panthers opened the second half on a 10-2 run to take an 11-point lead, its largest of the contest.
Though it has three double-figure scorers of its own, Northern Iowa hasn't been as strong an offensive team, as it shoots under 45 percent from the field while putting in the third fewest points per game (66.3) among MVC foes. Anthony James (12.6 ppg) is the leading offensive threat. The 6-foot guard has been in double figures in five of the last six games including back-to-back 17-point efforts. Seth Tuttle (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Jake Koch (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) anchor the Panthers from the interior with solid production both on the scoreboard and on the glass. Tuttle is coming off one of his best games of the season after he had 19 points and 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
The Panthers have enjoyed quite a homecourt advantage this season. With a raucous crowd behind them again, Northern Iowa should disrupt the Pioneers normally efficient offense and earn a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 69, Denver 65
02/23 10:44:57 ET