Jackrabbits come calling on 23rd-ranked Panthers

Dec 28, 2014 - 3:26 PM Cedar Falls, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - Having recently secured their 10th win of the season, the 23rd-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers play their final non- conference game of the regular season on Sunday afternoon when they entertain the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State at the McLeod Center.

South Dakota State is off to a solid start, the team having won nine of its first 13 games. The Jackrabbits took a seven-game win streak into their recent clash at No. 14 Utah, but saw that run of success come to an end in an 80-66 loss last Tuesday. Up next for SDSU is its Summit League opener at Denver next Friday.

Northern Iowa is off to a tremendous start, the team logging a 10-1 record as its finds itself among the nationally-ranked for the second time this season. The Panthers suffered their lone defeat in a 93-87 double-overtime affair at VCU on Dec. 13, but bounced back to take down Iowa in Des Moines a week later, 56-44. UNI, which has won eight consecutive home games, including a 5-0 mark this season, will visit Evansville on New Year's Day in its Missouri Valley Conference opener.

South Dakota State leads the all-time series with Northern Iowa, 45-36, but it was the Panthers who came out on top in the last meeting -- 72-55 at home on Dec. 21, 2008.

Poor shooting and some rather lax defense were the Jackrabbits' undoing in their recent clash with Utah, as they made good on only 39.7 percent of their field goal attempts, while allowing the Utes to convert 51.7 percent of their's. Cody Larson scored 13 points to pace South Dakota State, while Reed Tellingham contributed a dozen points off the bench, and Zach Horstman pitched in with 10 points in the losing effort.

Deondre Parks is one of three double-digit scorers on the roster for SDSU, but his 13.6 ppg aren't going to scare any one. Larson is right there with 13.5 ppg, while George Marshall nets 12.3 ppg despite appearing in only four games. Larson spearheads the team's effort on the glass with 7.1 rpg, and the team as a whole is virtually even in terms of rebounding margin on the season. It is however, +1.2 in turnover differential, goading the opposition into 13.2 tpg. The Jackrabbits are putting up 72.6 ppg while permitting 66.0 ppg, and they are holding foes to just 39.9 percent accuracy from the floor, which includes a 30.6 percent showing from beyond the arc.

The Panthers put on a defensive clinic in their recent tussle with in-state rival Iowa, holding the Hawkeyes to a paltry 27.5 percent shooting effort, which included just a 3-of-12 showing from 3-point range. UI was so bad in the second half, shooting just 3-of-24 from the field, that they scored a ridiculously low 15 points after intermission. Northern Iowa made good on 45.5 percent of its field goal attempts, knocking down a third of its 18 long- range launches along the way. The Panthers were outrebounded (38-28) and outscored at the foul line (13-10), but took advantage of 13 turnovers. Paul Jesperson was the only player for UNI to score in double figures, turning in 10 points in 26 minutes of action off the bench. Seth Tuttle however, nearly logged a double-double as he finished with nine points and eight boards.

Northern Iowa is giving up only 57.6 ppg, which ranks it first in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Panthers have held the opposition to 55 points or less in eight of their 11 games, and they're allowing only 57.5 ppg for the season. Tuttle (14.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Wes Washpun (11.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg) are the only double-digit scorers for a team that is shooting 47.8 percent from the floor, 38 percent from downtown, while allowing the opposition only 39 percent success overall. UNI's bench scoring ranks 11th in the country, as it accounts for an average of 32 ppg.

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