Northern Iowa (17-12) at Southern Illinois (12-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 27, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: SIU Arena (8,339) -- Carbondale, Illinois. Television: MVC TV. Home Record: UNI 12-3, SIU 8-4. Away Record: UNI 5-5, SIU 3-11. Neutral Record: UNI 0-4, SIU 1-1. Conference Record: UNI 10-6, SIU 4-12. Series Record: Southern Illinois leads, 28-23.
GAME NOTES: All alone at the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference standings, the Southern Illinois Salukis try to close out the final week of regular season play on a positive run as they begin with a meeting against the Northern Iowa Panthers at SIU Arena on Wednesday night.
SIU, which still has a date against Drake on the books for this weekend, has won a total of just four times in 16 chances in conference play this season. However, the team has shown some positive growth in recent weeks, thanks in part to a 74-68 overtime win against Miami-Ohio in non-conference play on Saturday. Even though the victory over the RedHawks did not count towards their MVC ledger, the Salukis have still won three of their last four outings overall.
As for the Panthers, they have won six straight league bouts and are now sitting in third place in the MVC because of it with a record of 10-6, trailing only Wichita State and Creighton. However, like the Salukis, Northern Iowa also took a break from league play over the week in order to tangle with visiting Denver, a matchup that ended up in favor of the Pioneers by a score of 63-57.
The Salukis own a 28-23 edge in the all-time series, but UNI won the first meeting of the season at home by a score of 58-45 a little over a month ago at the McLeod Center. With the victory the Panthers have now taken four in a row and nine of the last 10 clashes with Southern Illinois.
In the first half against Denver, the Pioneers seemed to be hitting everything, but after the break UNI slowed down the visitors but not enough of a change to get the Panthers into the win column. Seth Tuttle responded with a game-high 18 points, adding five rebounds, three assists and a couple of blocked shots for the Panthers, while Marc Sonnen chipped in 12 points, despite shooting a disappointing 3-of-11 from the floor.
James Anthony, who tallied eight points in the loss versus Denver, leads the team in scoring with 12.4 ppg as he plays close to 32 minutes per contest for a UNI team that seems to have figured out how to win in conference play over the last month or so. Tuttle checks in with another 10.8 ppg and Jake Koch accounts for 10.2 ppg, with the two combining to pull down almost 13 rpg in order to keep the Panthers competitive on the glass these days.
Jeff Early arrived on time for the Salukis as he tallied a career-high 31 points, including a clutch shot at the end of regulation in order to send the meeting with Miami into overtime. Early, who shot 11-of-17 from the field, added a game-high 12 rebounds, while Desmar Jackson nearly pulled off a double-double of his own with 17 points and eight rebounds, to go along with four assists and three steals in the close call at home. The Salukis made it tough on themselves by shooting only 11-of-21 at the free-throw line and failing to get to the stripe even once in the second half.
Early was the breakout star for the Salukis against Miami obviously, but his 12.6 ppg on the season comes in second behind Jackson who is pouring in 15.1 ppg. Jackson is one of only two players on the team to have made more than 20 3-pointers this season so he is considered an outside threat, but at the same time he is second on the team in rebounding with 5.6 per game, trailing only Early who is pulling down 7.4 rpg.
Hopefully the meeting with Denver will not leave an impression that is too lasting for the Panthers, because they can be sure the defense put forth by SIU will not be nearly as tough this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 69, Southern Illinois 62
02/27 10:32:51 ET