Northern Iowa (1-1) at Georgia Mason (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Patriot Center (10,000) -- Fairfax, Virginia. Television: None. Home Record: UNI 1-0, GMU 1-0. Away Record: UNI 0-1, GMU 1-0. Neutral Record: UNI 0-0, GMU 0-0. Conference Record: UNI 0-0, GMU 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAMES NOTES: In its final game before heading off to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam, the Northern Iowa Panthers will pay a visit to the George Mason Patriots in a non-conference bout at the Patriot Center.
The Panthers rebounded from a 75-64 loss on the road to Ohio by running away with an 86-52 victory against Division III foe Coe on Monday night. Though they were certainly not world beaters last season, the Panthers were able to remain competitive on the road, with a 5-6 mark away from Cedar Falls. After this game the Panthers will be idle until next Friday when they take part in the annual Paradise Jam Tournament. Their first matchup will be against Loyola Marymount.
George Mason has put together back-to-back victories to start the year. In the opener the Patriots closed out the game on a 10-3 run to escape with a 63-60 win over American at home. They then ventured out on the road to battle Lamar this past Tuesday. George Mason had much less trouble in that contest as it was able to secure a 68-54 victory. Playing at home didn't always yield impressive results for the Patriots last season as they were a mediocre 10-7 at the Patriot Center. Next up for George Mason is another home game against St. Francis (PA).
This is the third meeting ever and the third in the last four years between these squads. The visiting team has taken each of the first two contests with Northern Iowa earning an 82-77 victory last season and George Mason grabbing a 77-71 win during the 2010-11 season.
Surprisingly enough the Panthers have been getting the bulk of their offensive production off the bench. Chip Rank (16.0 ppg) is playing less than 20 minutes per game but is the leading scorer for Northern Iowa. Rank had his best game of the season against Coe, when he dropped in 18 points and went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc in 13 minutes of work. His production will eventually level out but his shooting from beyond the arc could be a real strength. Jeremy Morgan (10.0 ppg) has also been a reserve in the first two games but is one of the three players on the roster to be averaging in double figures, though he had just seven points against Coe. Deon Mitchell (12.0 ppg) is the only starter to be a double-figure threat right now but the bulk of his points came when he tallied 18 against Ohio. Expect Seth Tuttle (5.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) to be come more involved as his shooting improves.
Head coach Paul Hewitt has the Patriots playing solid defense to start the year as they have held their first two opponents to a combined 40.2 percent success rate from the field, with neither managing to break past 60 points. When they are on offense the Patriots have gotten most of their production from a trio of players. The first two are not surprises. Byron Allen (14.0 ppg, 4.0 apg) carried the team against American as he scored 20 points only to drop to a more pedestrian eight points in the win over Lamar. Sherrod Wright meanwhile, last year's leading scorer, has had 13 points in each game and is leading the team with 20 field goal attempts. The surprising contributor for the Patriots has been Marko Gujanicic. After dropping in 13 points off the bench in the opener, Gujanicic was inserted into the starting lineup against Lamar.The move paid off for Hewitt as Gujanicic posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The source of offense for each of these teams has been coming from some less expected areas. Expect things to return back to normal with two games under each team's belts. Wright is a potent scorer that is tough to defend and he should help the Patriots earn their third victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: George Mason 68, Northern Iowa 62
11/16 10:42:28 ET