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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 23, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (7,018) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: PSN, ESPN3.com. Home Record: SIU 4-2, UNI 8-2. Away Record: SIU 3-7, UNI 2-3. Neutral Record: SIU 1-1, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: SIU 1-6, UNI 3-4. Series Record: Southern Illinois leads, 28-22.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Iowa Panthers wrap up a two-game homestand on Wednesday night, as they entertain the Southern Illinois Salukis in a Missouri Valley Conference tilt.
The campaign started off rather promising for Southern Illinois, as it won seven of its first 10 games, but since then it has been plummeting in the standings with losses in seven of its last eight. The Salukis hosted Illinois State this past Sunday and were saddled with a 70-56 setback, falling to 1-6 in MVC play as a result.
Northern Iowa's up-and-down season (10-9, 3-4 MVC) can be largely attributed to an impressive home record (8-2). The team is a disappointing 2-7 everywhere else. The Panthers have alternated wins with losses in each of their last six contests, but they put together one of their best all-around efforts in an 85-55 rout of Drake last Sunday.
SIU holds a 28-22 advantage in the all-time series with UNI, but the Panthers have won eight of the last nine meetings and are 6-0 versus the Salukis at the McLeod Center.
SIU dug itself a huge hole in the first half against Illinois State, and even a 50 percent showing from the field after the break couldn't prevent it from suffering the double-digit setback. Jeff Early was impressive in defeat, tallying 16 points and nine rebounds, while Kendal Brown-Surles and Desmar Jackson scored 13 and 11 points, respectively. The Salukis' season has been a peculiar one. Even though they rank third in the MVC in field goal percentage (.458) and turnover margin (+3.4), their scoring offense (67.1 ppg) is good for 11th in the league. Jackson is the league's fourth-leading scorer, netting 16.7 ppg while also contributing elsewhere with 6.1 rpg, 2.0 apg and 2.1 spg. Early shoots nearly 52 percent from the field for 13.2 ppg, and he is also a strong rebounder with 7.8 rpg (third in the conference). Anthony Beane, Jr. (10.1 ppg) and Dantiel Daniels (9.9 ppg, league-high .663 FG percentage) are also regular contributors to the team's offensive effort.
UNI could do no wrong at either end of the court in its last bout, as it outshot Drake from the field by a commanding 60 percent to 35.6 percent, on its way to the 30-point win. Deon Mitchell shot 6-of-9 from the floor for 20 points, while Jake Koch tallied 16 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Seth Tuttle and Anthony James added to the well-rounded effort with 10 points apiece. The Panthers are used to getting a balanced effort at the offensive end, as all five starters average at least 9.5 ppg. Leading the way is James with 12.4 ppg, although his .414 field goal percentage is the lowest of the starting five. Tuttle (11.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Koch (10.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg) are both strong assets in the low post, while Mitchell (10.8 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Marc Sonnen (9.5 ppg, 44-of-99 from 3-point range) fill out the backcourt with James. As a team, UNI shoots a impressive 45.7 percent from the floor in netting 69.2 ppg, and it has the league's fourth-best scoring margin (+5.4).
Considering how well UNI has played at the McLeod Center and SIU's struggles of late, the Panthers should have no problem dismissing the Salukis in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 75, Southern Illinois 62
01/23 10:39:43 ET