Sycamores challenge 20th-ranked Panthers in MVC melee

Jan 21, 2015 - 3:30 PM Cedar Falls, IA ( - A pair of teams hoping to keep pace with the Wichita State Shockers in the race for the Missouri Valley Conference crown get together on Wednesday night, as the Indiana State Sycamores come calling on the 20th-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers.

Indiana State is an even 9-9 on the season, but the team ran off five straight wins to open MVC play before falling at Drake last Saturday, 84-78. The Sycamores are currently tied with Northern Iowa for second place in the league standings, both teams just a game behind the Shockers, who sit at 6-0 in MVC action.

After suffering an 82-49 loss at Evansville in its conference opener on New Year's Day, Northern Iowa has rattled off five consecutive victories. The team's latest triumph came in a 60-46 verdict against visiting Missouri State on Sunday. The Panthers are 9-0 in the McLeod Center this season, and have won 12 consecutive home games overall.

Indiana State owns a 26-22 lead in the all-time series with Northern Iowa, and the teams split the season series in 2013-14 with each winning on the road.

Brenton Scott scored a career-high 21 points, but the effort went for naught as Indiana State fell for the first time to a MVC foe this season, doing so by six points at Drake over the weekend. Kristian Smith and Devonte Brown tallied 18 points apiece, and Justin Gant pitched in with 10 for the Sycamores, who made good on 49.1 percent of their field goal attempts, while knocking down 10 treys. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs shot a sizzling 61.5 percent from the floor, which included a 12-of-17 showing beyond the arc. Drake won the battle on the boards, 28-20, and the two teams combined for 17 turnovers, only seven of which were credited to Indiana State.

For the season, the Sycamores are scoring nearly as many points as they allow (68.0 ppg to 69.9 ppg), and they are being outrebounded by almost four caroms per contest. They permit the opposition to connect on 39.4 percent of their 3- point shots, but they outshoot their foes overall (.428 to .421). Brown (12.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Smith (11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Scott (11.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg) are all averaging double figures in the scoring column, and Gant (9.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is close to joining them.

Seth Tuttle poured in 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help lead Northern Iowa to its recent win over Missouri State. Marvin Singleton nearly logged a double-double as well, as he finished with 10 points and nine boards for the Panthers, who shot just 39.3 percent from the field, 20 percent from downtown, while permitting the Bears a mere 36.8 percent success rate on their total shots. UNI claimed a 37-26 edge in the battle on the boards, while committing only five turnovers. Further evidence to support the fact that the Panthers controlled the interior was their 36-8 advantage in points in the paint.

With an average yield of 54.7 ppg, Northern Iowa ranks first in the MVC and fifth in the nation in scoring defense. The Panthers have upped the ante against conference foes, allowing a paltry 47.8 ppg. Overall, opponents are shooting just 37.9 percent from the field (tops in the league), 30.3 percent beyond the arc. Offensively, UNI nets 65.7 ppg and features only one double- digit scorer in Tuttle (14.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg). The team is hitting 47.9 percent of its total shots, which includes a 37.0 percent performance from 3-point range.

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