Missouri State (12-5) at Northern Iowa (9-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 18, 1 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (7,018) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: MSU 8-1, UNI 6-0. Away Record: MSU 3-3, UNI 1-6. Neutral Record: MSU 1-1, UNI 2-2. Conference Record: MSU 2-3, UNI 3-2. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 40-25.
GAME NOTES: Both the Missouri State Bears and the Northern Iowa Panthers will try to bounce back from losses earlier in the week when the teams meet up for a Missouri Valley Conference showdown at the McLeod Center on Saturday afternoon.
Despite Missouri State's impressive 12-5 record on the season, it has been trending in the wrong direction in recent weeks with losses in three of its last four games. The Bears dropped a 70-55 decision at Indiana State on Wednesday night to slip to 2-3 in the MVC and 3-3 on the road.
UNI also lost a road matchup in its most recent game, falling at Southern Illinois on Tuesday in a 68-66 heartbreaker to snap a two-game winning streak. The Panthers are a modest 9-8 on the campaign but have won three of five against league opponents and have yet to loss in six tries on their home floor.
Missouri State leads the all-time series with UNI by a 40-25 count, but the Panthers swept the two games last season and have won eight of the last 10 meetings.
The Bears fell behind Indiana State by 12 points at the half of their latest bout and could never get closer than nine points of the lead in the second stanza on their way to the tough road setback. They shot a modest 42.9 percent from the field but only 2-of-14 came from 3-point territory. Jarmar Gulley was the only player to finish in double figures with 16 points on 7-of-12 from the field, while Gavin Thurman and Devon Thomas each scored nine points.
On the season, Missouri State only shoots 43.3 percent from the field, but its 72.4 ppg is slightly more than what it allows (70.6 ppg), and it has shined in games decided by three points or less, going 5-1. With leading scorer Marcus Marshall (14.3 ppg) out indefinitely with a knee injury, Gulley has been called upon as the go-to option, putting up 13.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg and nearly two steals per contest all while shooting 48.4 percent from the floor. While no one else scores in double digits on a nightly basis, seven others help out by netting between 5.3 and 7.9 ppg.
The Panthers led for nearly the entire game on Wednesday night, including by 12 points with under five minutes to play before SIU ripped off a furious rally down the stretch, which was capped off by the game-winning bucket with just seven seconds left. They shot 43.9 percent from the field in the disappointing defeat, lost the rebounding battle, 36-26, and, despite shooting 90 percent from the foul line, had just 10 free-throw attempts. Seth Tuttle did his best to lift the team to victory, posting 24 points and nine rebounds, while Matt Bohannon was solid as well with 12 points on 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
UNI regularly out-produces its opponents, as it is shooting 44.4 percent from the field this season for 71.5 ppg while yielding just 67.1 ppg on 42 percent shooting. Tuttle leads the charge from the frontcourt with 13.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg and more than a block per contest. Deon Mitchell (13.0 ppg, 3.5 apg), Nate Buss (10.1 ppg), Bohannon (8.6 ppg) and Wes Washpun (8.6 ppg) also bring consistent contributions to the table.
With UNI having the hotter hand of late and owning the homecourt advantage, expect it to get the best of a Missouri State squad that has stumbled recently in the absence of its best player.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 73, Missouri State 65
01/18 10:28:09 ET