Northern Iowa (7-6) at (8) Wichita State (14-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, January 5, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Charles Koch Arena (10,300) -- Wichita, Kansas. Television: MVC-TV, ESPN3. Home Record: UNI 5-0, WSU 8-0. Away Record: UNI 0-4, WSU 4-0. Neutral Record: UNI 2-2, WSU 2-0. Conference Record: UNI 1-0, WSU 1-0. Series Record: Northern Iowa leads, 25-22.
GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Wichita State Shockers try to remain perfect on the season, as they host the Northern Iowa Panthers in Missouri Valley Conference action at Koch Arena.
One of seven Division I programs to enter the weekend with an unblemished record, Wichita State has done the most damage at home through the first two months of the season with eight victories. Three nights ago, the team traveled to Southern Illinois to open the MVC schedule and dominated the Salukis, 82-67.
In the case of the Panthers, they too are 1-0 in conference play thanks to an 80-46 thrashing of Bradley on New Year's Day, but overall the program is just a game over .500 at 7-6. The squad has won four of its last five outings overall, the lone setback coming against Virginia a few days before Christmas in a disappointing offensive display, 57-43.
In terms of the all-time series, Northern Iowa maintains a slight 25-22 advantage heading into this meeting. The good news for the Panthers is that they are 2-0 when facing a Wichita State team that is among the nationally ranked.
UNI scored the first points of the night against Bradley at the McLeod Center and never looked back, limiting the Braves to just 3-of-16 shooting behind the 3-point line and watching the visitors convert only 9-of-19 at the free-throw line. Seth Tuttle headed a list of four double-digit scorers with his game- high 23 points, to go along with a game-high nine rebounds, followed by Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Jeremy Morgan came off the bench to offer up 10 points as well.
Tuttle is responsible for 13.5 ppg overall on the season, followed closely by Deon Mitchell and his 13.2 ppg, while Nate Buss brings support from the reserves with 11.0 ppg. Tuttle accounts for 7.9 rpg and is also first on the unit with 17 blocked shots, three ahead of Washpun (7.8 ppg) who, while he may shoot just 38.8 percent from the floor, is contributing in other ways with 4.2 rpg and a team-best 46 dishes through 13 games.
A 12-0 scoring run midway through the first half put Wichita State in control against the Salukis and from there the Shockers had no worries, en route to the 15-point win in Carbondale. Cleanthony Early stepped up with a game-high 23 points in 29 minutes, followed by Fred VanVleet with 17 and seven assists, while Nick Wiggins tacked on 13 points as he shot a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor in just 16 minutes off the bench.
The leading scorer in three of the last four games for the Shockers, Early checks in with 16.5 ppg, thanks to his 84.1 percent effort at the free-throw line where the team as a whole has outscored the competition by 93 points in 14 games. Ron Baker (13.6 ppg) and VanVleet (11.7 ppg) are both shooting above 83 percent at the charity stripe as well, not to mention combining to provide the offense with 125 assists which is just 23 fewer than all of the opposing teams put together.
The Shockers have that look of a team that is destined to dominate in conference play this season, but they have to be careful not to get tripped up by an opponent that has nothing to lose -- a team like Northern Iowa.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wichita State 76, Northern Iowa 59
01/05 10:56:26 ET