Illinois State (17-13) at Northern Iowa (17-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: None. Home Record: Illinois State 11-5, UNI 12-3. Away Record: Illinois State 5-7, UNI 5-6. Neutral Record: Illinois State 1-1, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: Illinois State 8-9, UNI 10-7. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 35-27.
GAMES NOTES: The Northern Iowa Panthers will try to hold on to the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Missouri Valley Conference Tournament when they fight with the Illinois State Redbirds in league action at the McLeod Center.
Illinois State put a stop to a three-game skid on Wednesday with a convincing 86-50 victory over Missouri State. With the win the Redbirds improved to 17-13 overall, while moving closer to the .500 mark in league action (8-9).
Losses in back-to-back games has Northern Iowa reeling entering this regular season finale. The Panthers are also 17-13 overall but are sporting a 10-7 mark in league play which has them just a game ahead of Indiana State and Evansville for third place. If the Panthers can't secure a win in this game though they would drop to the fourth seed in the upcoming MVC Tournament with the Sycamores and Purple Aces facing off on Saturday as well.
Though Jackie Carmichael posted a double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds) it was Northern Iowa that took a 70-60 victory against the Redbirds in the first meeting of the season. UNI has won nine of the last 11 meetings, but Illinois State leads the all-time series still, 35-27. However, the Redbirds are 0-6 at the McLeod Center all-time.
Carmichael (16 points, 11 rebounds) also had a double-double on Wednesday but this time the Redbirds grabbed a victory. The Redbirds shot 59.2 percent from the floor in the contest and hit 10 shots from beyond the arc. Tyler Brown had a strong game as well with 25 points.
Led by Brown and Carmichael the Redbirds are one of the better offensive teams not only in the conference but the country. Illinois State is scoring 75.5 points per game, assisting on 15.7 field goals and shooting 45.9 percent from the field. All three of those marks are among the top 60 in the country while second in the MVC, Carmichael (17.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg) has to be a candidate for Conference Player of the Year as he leads the league in rebounds and blocks, while ranking third in scoring. Carmichael has hung up 13 double- doubles this season. Brown (17.7 ppg) provides a ton of offensive punch as a complement to Carmichael in the backcourt.
Though they rallied in the second half, the Panthers couldn't overcome a 15- point halftime deficit against Southern Illinois on Wednesday in a 63-57 setback. The Panthers shot just 37.7 percent from the floor and despite hitting eight shots from beyond the arc, they launched 32 attempts from long range.
Northern Iowa doesn't have the same type of offensive punch as the Redbirds. The Panthers are netting 65.6 points per game, shooting below 45 percent from the field. However the Panthers are a solid defensive squad, letting up just 61 points on 42.4 percent shooting. Anthony James (12.4 ppg) is the leading scorer for the Panthers but he missed the last game with a thigh issue. James is listed as questionable for this contest. Seth Tuttle (10.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Jake Koch (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) form a solid tandem in the frontcourt as the only other double-figure scorers on the roster. Marc Sonnen (9.9 ppg) and Deon Mitchell (9.4 ppg) are also important contributors.
Though the Redbirds have arguable the two best players on the floor in this contest the Panthers are the better overall team. However if James is unable to go, Northern Iowa may fall.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 70, Northern Iowa 65
03/02 10:34:07 ET