Men's College Basketball
<    April    
Illinois State (17-14) vs. Northern Iowa (18-13)

The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Friday, March 8, 9:35 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Scottrade Center (20,948) -- St. Louis, Missouri. Television: MVC Network. Home Record: ISU 11-5, UNI 13-3. Away Record: ISU 5-8, UNI 5-6. Neutral Record: ISU 1-1, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: ISU 8-10, UNI 11-7. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 36-28.

GAME NOTES: After completing the season-series sweep of the Redbirds six days ago, the No. 3-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers will look to take down the sixth- seed Illinois State in the second round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

UNI swept the season series vs. the Redbirds, including an 80-72 win this past Saturday in Cedar Falls. The win was the 10th in the past 12 games for the Panthers, who still trail Illinois State, 36-28, in the all-time series.

Illinois State stumbled down the stretch as its second loss to UNI marked its fourth in five games. The Redbirds appeared to be one of the conference's best teams throughout the season until its late season collapse. They only fell at Louisville by three points, won a pair of tough non-conference bouts versus Western Michigan (85-63) and at Dayton (74-73) and later upset the MVC regular season champion Creighton Bluejays (75-72) in Omaha.

The Panthers' season-closing win snapped a two-game slide and secured the No. 3 seed for them, as a loss would have dropped them into a tie with Evansville. UNI also suffered a close loss to Louisville (51-46) before it took down Saint Mary's (82-75), Wichita State (57-52) and Creighton (61-54).

The Redbirds have serious star power, with perhaps the best inside-outside duo in the league in Tyler Brown (18.1 ppg) and Jackie Carmichael (17.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg). The production from those two helps spearhead the MVC's second- best offensive attack (75.4 ppg). Brown scored his 1,000th career point in the regular season finale as he pumped in 28 points in the loss to UNI. Johnny Hill tallied 14 points and nine rebounds while Carmichael's minutes and statistics were limited due to foul trouble. The Redbirds shot 50 percent from the field, but were outrebounded, 42-26. The Panthers also attempted 15 more free throws than ISU.

Although they are just eighth in the MVC in scoring (66.1 ppg), the Panthers have a strong starting five, with each player averaging at least 9.3 ppg. Anthony James paces the group with 12.6 ppg, while Seth Tuttle (10.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Jake Koch (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.2 spg) are both integral in the battle on the interior. Even more so than its stellar scoring production, UNI relies heavily on a defensive effort that allows just 61.4 ppg. In the regular season finale, James scored 19 points, Marc Sonnen tallied 18 points and Koch added 18 points. Koch and sophomore Tuttle each tallied double- doubles. Koch had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Tuttle tallied 15 points and tied a career-high with 12 rebounds.

The Panthers have had no trouble figuring out how to get the best of ISU to this point. Carmichael's ability to play smart and avoid foul trouble will be crucial to the Redbirds' chances of avoiding a three-game season-series sweep, as his interior presence can make a world of difference.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 75, Illinois State 70

03/08 10:34:23 ET

Powered by The Sports Network.

Sports Plus - Ruidoso News