Northern Iowa (17-10) at Evansville (12-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 15th, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (11,000) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: Northern Iowa 12-3, Evansville 8-6. Away Record: Northern Iowa 3-7, Evansville 4-7. Neutral Record: Northern Iowa 2-0, Evansville 0-0. Conference Record: Northern Iowa 7-8, Evansville 7-8. Series Record: Evansville leads, 20-19.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Missouri Valley Conference members look to improve their positioning in the standings Wednesday as Evansville welcomes Northern Iowa to the Ford Center.
Northern Iowa picked up a solid 78-63 home win over Illinois State Saturday after enduring a 1-1 stretch against the league's top two teams in Creighton and Wichita State. The Panthers gave Creighton its first shock two weeks ago with a 65-62 triumph in Cedar Falls, halting the Bluejays' 11-game win streak, then fell at WSU by way of a convincing 82-57 final. UNI bounced back nicely versus ISU, though, tying a season high with 12 three-pointers with four coming from Johnny Moran. The Panthers broke open a close game with a 19-4 run spanning the two halves and held a double-digit advantage for the final 11- plus minutes. Seth Tuttle recorded 17 points and 11 rebounds while Moran registered 16 points and six boards. Marc Sonnen added 12 points and six assists for the victors, giving UNI three wins in its last four games and a 7-8 MVC mark.
Evansville faltered in its attempt to ride momentum out of its upset of Creighton last week, dropping a 78-54 decision at Drake. The Purple Aces cut a seven-point halftime deficit to one approaching the midpoint of the second period before Drake exploded for a game-changing 20-4 run in just four minutes to essentially seal UE's fate. The Bulldogs finished out the game on a 38-15 surge, shooting 60.0 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes and 53.6 percent overall. Evansville shot just 36.8 percent for the game and got 16 points from Denver Holmes. Kenny Harris chipped in 12 points as the Aces lost for the second time in three games to settle at 7-8 in league action.
Evansville is aiming for its first season sweep of the Panthers since 2002 after notching a 76-65 win January 1 in Cedar Falls. The victory gave the Purple Aces a 20-19 edge in the all-time series and three wins in the last four matchups with UNI.
The Panthers rely mostly on defense and three-point shooting to get by. The offense musters a decent 66.1 points per game but on 43.3 percent shooting. The Panthers' three-point accuracy stands at 39.5 percent, second to only Creighton in the MVC, while seven different players make hefty contributions from beyond the arc. Sonnen leads the team with 45 triples on 45.9 percent shooting and averages 8.7 ppg. Moran slots in next with 39 treys on 34.2 percent shooting but chips in only 7.1 ppg. Anthony James leads the team in scoring at 13.0 ppg, the Panthers' lone double-figure scorer, and has 30 three-pointers on 36.6-percent accuracy. Tuttle and Jake Koch check in with matching 9.3-point averages while the latter adds 33 triples on 35.5 percent shooting. Tuttle, meanwhile, leads the conference with an incredible 65.7 field-goal percentage. The defense does a nice job in holding teams to 61.7 ppg, second in the MVC, but on 43.7 percent shooting.
The Purple Aces are right up there in the MVC as far as offense is concerned, sitting just behind only Creighton and Wichita State with 73.0 ppg and a 45.5 shooting percentage. However, the defense is ranked second-to-last in the conference in surrendering 72.0 ppg and a league-high 48.0 shooting percentage. In addition, the Purple Aces are the MVC's worst rebounding team with just 29.5 boards per game and a league-low minus-5.1 margin on the glass. Helping to even things out a bit is the conference's top free-throw shooting mark as Evansville hits at a crisp 76.9 percent from the stripe. Colt Ryan leads the Aces' offense and sits second in the conference with a 20.0-point scoring average. The junior is also one of the league's top three-point shooters with 55 on 42.3 percent accuracy, though he was held to just seven points versus Drake. Harris helps back up that effort with a solid 11.6 ppg while providing 4.5 rebounds per contest. Holmes gives the Purple Aces three legit double-digit scoring threats, checking in at 10.9 ppg, while Ned Cox adds 9.3 ppg to the mix.
Evansville is a dangerous team when Ryan is on his game, but it faces one of the league's elite defensive teams Wednesday. Of course the Aces don't play much defense themselves, and UNI too can be lethal when the three-ball is finding its target. The Panthers should be able to exploit Evansville's defense and take a big step forward in conference play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 72, Evansville 65
02/15 10:35:39 ET