Panthers and Bears meet MVC melee

Jan 18, 2015 - 3:27 PM Des Moines, IA ( - The 23rd-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers put their 11-game home win streak on the line Sunday afternoon as they entertain the Missouri State Bears in Missouri Valley Conference action at the McLeod Center.

The Panthers, who have only two defeats on the season against VCU in double- overtime last month and a narrow three-point setback versus Evansville to kick off the 2015 portion of the schedule, have won four straight since bowing to the Purple Aces.

The latest victory for the Panthers took place on Tuesday night at Bradley as the team captured a 63-52 decision over the Braves.

As for the Bears, they are heading in the opposite direction, dropping three games in a row which has them at 2-3 in conference and in the bottom half of the league standings. Against Evansville last time out, Missouri State came up two points short in a 56-54 decision at home.

Missouri State leads the all-time series by a 40-27 count, although the Panthers have won four straight and six of the last seven meetings.

The Bears gave themselves a chance to take down Evansville at JQH Arena by limiting D.J. Balentine to only 2-of-12 shooting from the floor, but one of those conversions came with less than six seconds to play in regulation and proved to be the game winner. Dorrian Williams led the MSU attack with 15 points, followed by reserve Christian Kirk with 12 points, while Tyler McCullough and Chris Kendrix responded with 11 and 10 points, respectively, the latter hitting 2-of-4 behind the 3-point line while the rest of the unit came up empty on a combined nine attempts.

The Bears are at a disadvantage these days due to the fact that leading scorer Marcus Marshall has been suspended, taking his 19.5 ppg with him. That leaves Austin Ruder as the top active scorer with only 8.5 ppg. Ruder, as well as Williams (7.8 ppg), are both shooting under 39.0 percent from the floor and as a result the Bears find themselves hitting only 41.1 percent as a unit, resulting in 64.3 ppg, which is only slightly better than the 63.3 ppg allowed.

The Panthers left no doubt during their meeting with Bradley at Carver Arena, outscoring the Braves 35-18 at the half before taking their foot off the gas and bringing home the 11-point victory. Seth Tuttle was responsible for a game-high 15 points, adding seven rebounds and five assists as he sank all nine of his attempts at the free-throw line. Off the bench it was Nate Buss with another 11 points and seven rebounds of his own as the team shook off 14 turnovers and survived despite pulling down only six offensive boards.

Northern Iowa, which entered the weekend trailing both Wichita State and Indiana State in the MVC standings, has been quite devastating on defense when taking on the rest of the league. Those five foes have combined to shoot only 33.8 percent from the floor, including 27.0 percent behind the 3-point line, en route to a pitiful 48.2 ppg. Tuttle takes care of the offense in those conference outings with 15.6 ppg, shooting an impressive 65.1 percent from the floor and also pacing the group with 5.6 rpg and 16 assists, despite fouling out of one contest.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!