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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 13, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Creighton 13-2, UNI 11-2. Away Record: Creighton 5-3, UNI 3-5. Neutral Record: Creighton 2-0, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: Creighton 9-4, UNI 7-6. Series Record: Creighton leads, 30-16.
GAME NOTES: Despite falling out of the top-25, the Creighton Bluejays keep their gaze on a Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title, as they take on the Northern Iowa Panthers in league action at the McLeod Center on Wednesday.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays were firmly entrenched in the national rankings just a week ago, but back-to-back losses to Indiana State (76-57) and Illinois State (75-72) have Creighton on the outside looking in this week. With the setbacks, Creighton is now 9-4 in league play, tied with Wichita State for the top spot in the conference standings. McDermott will be facing his alma mater in this game, as he played for Northern Iowa from 1984-88.
Ben Jacobsen's Panthers are slowly climbing their way up the conference ladder, with wins in each of their last three games. Sunday's 68-65 road win at Bradley, pushed UNI's conference mark to 7-6, good for a fourth-place tie with Evansville.
Creighton holds a 30-16 advantage in the all-time series, but is just 9-12 in games played in Cedar Falls, with UNI winning the last three meetings at home. The Bluejays are looking for the regular-season sweep after posting a a 79-68 decision in Omaha on Jan. 15.
The Bluejays took care of business on the boards, outrebounding Illinois State, 48-29. However, Creighton could not take advantage, shooting a season- low .379 from the floor, including an ugly .174 from behind the arc. All- American Doug McDermott once again led the way with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Grant Gibbs added 16 points, while Jahenns Manigat chipped in 11.
It was a rare poor shooting effort for Creighton, which still leads the nation in both field-goal percentage (.510) and 3-point accuracy (.432). McDermott, who will be starting his 100th game in this contest, is well on his way to All-American honors again. The 6-foot-8 junior is shooting .552 from the floor, .482 from beyond the arc and ranks second nationally in scoring (23.3 ppg), while also pacing the team in rebounding (7.5 rpg). Center Gregory Echenique is a distant second in the scoring column (9.7 ppg), but is a solid presence on the glass (7.1 rpg).
The Panthers are starting to reach their potential and could make some noise down the stretch in the MVC race. Northern Iowa is shooting a healthy .448 on the season, while averaging 66.2 ppg. There is scoring depth, with three of the five starters averaging double figures, and a couple of others just under that mark. Anthony James leads the way with 12.4 ppg. Seth Tuttle (10.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Jake Koch (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) give the team a pair of solid frontcourt options. Deon Mitchell (9.8 ppg) and Marc Sonnen (9.6 ppg) add to the team's versatility on offense. Sonnen ranks second nationally in 3-point shooting at .463 (62-of-134).
UNI showed its balance in the win over Bradley on Sunday, as four Panthers finished in double-figure scoring. Sonnen knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 15 points. Koch and Matt Bohannon added 14 points each, while James finished with 10. The Panthers led by 19 points at halftime and almost let one slip away, as Bradley came roaring back in the second half by shooting a sizzling 65.5 percent from the floor (19-of-29).
Creighton needs to get others to contribute behind McDermott, or a stellar start to the season could be lost. The Bluejays will surely shoot the basketball better in this game, but winning in Cedar Falls has been a problem of late.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 66, Creighton 65
02/13 10:37:07 ET