(15) Wichita State (19-3) at Northern Iowa (11-11)
Saturday, February 2, 4 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: WSU 12-1, UNI 9-2. Away Record: WSU 5-2, UNI 2-5. Neutral Record: WSU 2-0, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: WSU 8-2, UNI 4-6. Series Record: Northern Iowa leads, 24-22.
GAME NOTES: Coming off a surprising setback earlier this week, the 15th-ranked Wichita State Shockers hit the floor against the Northern Iowa Panthers in Missouri Valley Conference action at the McLeod Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Shockers, who enter the weekend tied with Creighton for the best record in the MVC (8-2) and the top mark overall (19-3) in the conference, were stunned by Indiana State on Tuesday night in a 68-55 setback. The defeat not only snapped WSU's overall win streak at four in a row, it also halted a 19-game home win streak as well.
As for the Panthers, a team which has won at least 20 games in four straight seasons, they are tied with Drake and Missouri State for sixth place in the MVC standings with a record of 4-6 entering the weekend. Also in action on Tuesday night, UNI was taken to overtime by Evansville on the road before suffering the 54-51 setback. The loss was the second in a row for the team overall, and the third consecutive road defeat.
The Shockers blasted UNI in the first meeting of the season in late December, 66-41, as Cleanthony Early led four players in double figures with 16 points and the Panthers were held to just 32.6 percent shooting from the floor and 3- of-17 beyond the arc. However, even with the decision Northern Iowa still leads the all-time series by a count of 24-22.
Shooting a season-low 27.1 percent from the floor against Indiana State earlier this week was easily enough of a drop-off to send the Shockers to an unexpected home loss. Early tried to keep the team competitive with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but he shot just 3-of-10 from the floor, while Demetric Williams chipped in with 14 points on his 4-of-14 effort. Defensively, Wichita State allowed the Sycamores to make good on 53.3 percent from the floor in the meeting, yet forced 15 turnovers which were just not enough to stem the tide. Early leads the team in scoring overall this season with his 15.2 ppg, thanks to his 82-of-104 effort at the free-throw line, but having the ball in his hands is not always a positive since he has turned it over 41 times, against just 15 assists. Carl Hall checks in with 12.1 ppg and is first with 7.8 rpg for a team that doesn't have a single player involved in more than 27 minutes per game as they try to spread the wealth.
In a game that featured seven ties and eight lead changes, the Panthers were held to only 19 points in the first half by Evansville and a mere four points in overtime as the visitors to the Ford Center suffered the three-point setback. The starting five combined to shoot only 18-of-48 from the floor and 5-of-17 behind the 3-point line and it also didn't help that the Panthers made just 1-of-2 at the free-throw line on the night either. Marc Sonnen was the lone double-digit scorer for the Panthers with 11 points, thanks to his 3-of-5 effort beyond the arc. Sonnen, a starter in every game this season, is the top perimeter threat for the Panthers with his 55-of-112 (.491) accuracy and yet he is still scoring just 9.6 ppg at the moment. James Anthony (12.2 ppg), who is just 28.8 percent beyond the arc, leads a quartet of double-digit scorers at the moment as the group generates a solid 67.3 ppg in a very competitive MVC.
Now that the Shockers no longer have to worry about carrying a lengthy home winning streak, the team can get back to focusing on just playing the game. Even less pressure this weekend since WSU is on the road where they should be able to take care of the Panthers with relative ease.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wichita State 65, Northern Iowa 52
02/02 10:33:13 ET