Saint Mary's-CA (8-2) at Northern Iowa (6-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 23, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McLeod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: None. Home Record: SMC 5-0, UNI 5-0. Away Record: SMC 2-0, UNI 1-1. Neutral Record: SMC 1-2, UNI 0-4. Conference Record: SMC 0-0, UNI 0-0. Series Record: Saint Mary's-CA leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Iowa Panthers will put their 10-game home winning streak on the line when the Saint Mary's Gaels visit the McLeod Center for a non-conference tilt on Sunday. This game was orginally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 22, but postponed a day due to inclement weather.
Randy Bennett's Gaels will bring some momentum with them to Cedar Falls as they earned their fourth win in a row on Wednesday by defeating Pacific, 74-46, at home to avenge a loss in late November to the Tigers. SMC is now 8-2 overall with its only other loss coming to Georgia Tech in the DirecTV Classic. The Gaels are one of the top offensive teams in the nation with an average of 81.3 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the floor. They are decent on the defensive end as well with an allowed average of only 65.2 ppg on 40.5 percent field goal accuracy.
Although UNI has won 10 straight at home, it is currently on a two-game losing slide thanks to a neutral site loss to Iowa (80-73) and a road setback at UNLV (73-59). Coach Ben Jacobson's squad has not had an easy journey so far, as the Rebels were the third ranked opponent it faced as it suffered setbacks to Louisville (51-46) and Memphis (52-47) in tight affairs in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Panthers have a very balanced attack which is yielding 69.5 ppg. They are even better on defense, allowing only 63.4 ppg.
This will be just the second time in history these teams square off with one another. SMC earned a 57-41 decision last November in Moraga to take a 1-0 series lead.
During its current four-game winning streak, SMC is outscoring its opposition by an average of 28.5 ppg. The team managed to completely shut down Pacific on Wednesday, holding the Tigers to thirty points less than their total in the first meeting between these teams this season. The Gaels were not shy from distance but managed to knock down 10-of-30 attempts from beyond the arc while also holding a commanding 44-24 edge in the rebounding battle. Senior Matthew Dellavedova, who started for the Australian National Team in the Summer Olympics, went 5-of-19 from the field to produce 17 points which he accompanied with eight assists and six rebounds. Beau Levesque tallied a team- high 18 points in 21 minutes. He is averaging 14 ppg over the span of his last three outings. Dellavedova is making a strong case to repeat as West Coast Conference Player of the Year with averages of 19.5 points and 6.1 assists per outing. Sophomore forward Brad Waldow (11.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and juco transfer James Walker III (10.3 ppg) are helping out in the scoring column. Preseason all-WCC selection Stephen Holt has only played six games this season due to a bruised knee and he is doubtful to return in this one.
UNI had a forgettable performance its last time out as it was limited to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor while allowing UNLV to drain 45.6 percent of its field goals attempts. The Rebels also held a 42-34 edge in the rebounding battle to go along with their 28-16 advantage in points in the paint. Marc Sonnen paced the team with 15 points and Jake Koch contributed 11 points and eight boards. Deon Mitchell went 0-of-7 from the floor and Anthony James managed to make just 5-of-16 field goal tries in the defeat. Mitchell is leading the team with 12.1 ppg and James is also scoring in double figures regularly to average 10.3 ppg. Sonnen, Koch, and Seth Tuttle are chipping in just under 10 points per contest as well.
Although the Panthers are much better at home, they have a difficult visitor arriving on Saturday. SMC is playing at the championship level it displayed last season during its WCC regular season and conference title runs. The Gaels displayed the ability to win when Dellavedova is not hitting his shot in their last appearance, and the superstar floor general isn't prone to long bouts of inconsistency.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Mary's 75, Northern Iowa 70
12/23 10:32:43 ET