Men's College Basketball
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Northern Iowa (17-11) at Virginia Commonwealth (22-6)

The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Friday, February 17th, 7:00 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Verizon Wireless Arena (7,500) -- Richmond, Virginia. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UNI 12-3, VCU 11-1. Away Record: UNI 3-8, VCU 9-3. Neutral Record: UNI 2-0, VCU 2-2. Conference Record: UNI 7-9, VCU 13-3. Series Record: First-ever meeting.

GAME NOTES: Meeting for the first-time ever, the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth and the Northern Iowa Panthers mix it up in Richmond tonight as part of the kick-off for the annual BracketBusters event.

VCU has been idle since Tuesday night when it had an 11-game win streak snapped by George Mason, as the host Patriots knocked down a three-pointer to claim the 62-61 victory. Prior to that, the last setback for the Rams took place against Drexel back on January 8.

As for the Panthers, they went up against Evansville on the road on Wednesday night and were taken down by a buzzer-beating three-pointer in a 63-62 final at the Ford Center. The loss was the second in the last three games for the program and dropped the squad to 7-9 against the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Panthers were paced by Seth Tuttle with 16 points, followed by Anthony James and Chip Rank with 13 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench but still the team was tabbed with the one-point loss to Evansville on the road a few nights back. Jake Koch was credited with a team-best nine rebounds, but contributed just six points to the scoring total as the team made good on 51 percent from the floor but at the same time turned the ball over 15 times. Tuttle, the leading scorer in each of the last three games for the Panthers, is now second on the team with his 9.5 ppg, based on a staggering 66.0 percent accuracy from the floor. James checks in with 13.0 ppg, the lone double-digit scorer on the roster at the moment, but really it has been the defense that has carried the squad this far, allowing just 61.8 ppg.

Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels both tallied 13 points for the Rams on Tuesday night, combining to shoot 6-of-17 behind the three-point line, but it wasn't enough as George Mason knocked down a 30-footer at the buzzer to steal the victory. Also scoring in double figures for the visitors was Darius Theus with 11 points, adding six assists, but the group converted a mere 36.2 percent shots from the field and 6-of-21 from behind the three-point line in the matchup. Scoring points hasn't been a priority for VCU this year, instead the team aims to keep opponents from filling up the basket and its managed to do that by limiting them to just 58.7 ppg. But when it does come to offense, the Rams generally lean on Burgess and Juvonte Reddic who are averaging 13.0 and 10.3 ppg, respectively, the latter also clearing 6.6 rpg and the former ranking second on the unit with slightly better than five boards per game.

The Rams have an edge in the fact that they not only had an extra day to prepare for this meeting, but that they also don't have to travel on short notice and those are issues that UNI will have to deal with tonight.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Commonwealth 64, Northern Iowa 56

02/17 10:35:09 ET

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