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Iona (5-5) at Northern Iowa (5-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 28, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Iona 3-1, Northern Iowa 3-0. Away Record: Iona 2-4, Northern Iowa 0-4. Neutral Record: Iona 0-0, Northern Iowa 2-2. Conference Record: Iona 0-0, Northern Iowa 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Iona Gaels continue their four-game road trip Saturday when they visit the Northern Iowa Panthers at the McLeod Center.
The Gaels have lost three in a row and started their trek with an 80-72 setback against Nevada on Sunday. A.J. English led the way with a game-high 22 points, shooting 6-of-12 beyond the arc, while Sean Armand and Tre Bowman added 15 and 11 points, respectively. A tight game that featured 16 lead changes was blown open late as Nevada turned it around with 57.1 percent shooting accuracy in the second half.
The recent slide comes on the heels of a four-game winning streak, but Iona's offense can't be held at fault. Armand is tallying a robust 22.0 ppg, while English is close behind with 16.3 ppg to go along with a team-best 46 assists. David Laury has been a force down low, totaling 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest, and Bowman rounds out the top scorers with 12.2 ppg.
Iona has not separated itself from its opponents because of its defense, which is allowing teams to shoot 46.4 percent from the field and own the glass, as the Gaels are getting outrebounded by nearly five boards each time out.
Northern Iowa meanwhile, was coming off a big win over VCU two weeks ago but came back down to Earth with a 57-43 loss to Virginia last Saturday. Seth Tuttle tallied a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but the Panthers never recovered from their 16-point showing in the first half. UNI shot just 31.7 percent from the field on the afternoon, including 2-of-19 from beyond the arc. The Panthers were also plagued by 13 turnovers.
Northern Iowa is averaging just 70.0 ppg but has been hovering around the .500 mark all season by holding its opponents to 69.4. The Panthers have been perfect at home (4-0) but have lost all three of their true road tests. Deon Mitchell's modest 13.0 ppg scoring average leads the club, Tuttle is netting 12.8, and Nate Buss has been a key contributor off the bench at 11.1 ppg.
These teams have never met before on the hardwood and would like to end their non-conference schedule on a high note. It's a classic matchup of a good offense against a good defense. In this case, the home team has the better defense and gets the slight edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 80, Iona 75
12/28 10:42:01 ET
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