14th-ranked Panthers eye up Sycamores in MVC matchup

Feb 3, 2015 - 3:34 PM Terre Haute, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers put a nine-game win streak on the line on Tuesday, as they take on the Indiana State Sycamores in Missouri Valley Conference action from the Hulman Center.

Ben Jacobsen's Panthers are coming off their most impressive victory of the season, a showdown with the other nationally-ranked MVC school Wichita State. When the smoke cleared on Saturday, UNI established itself as the team to beat, with a 70-54 rout of the Shockers, moving to 20-2 overall and 9-1 in league play.

Greg Lansing's Sycamores are just .500 on the season at 11-11, but they have played much better in conference play, sitting at 7-3. Indiana State has won two of its last three games, including a 64-58 victory over Bradley on Saturday, moving to 8-4 at the Hulman Center this season.

Indiana State leads the all-time series with Northern Iowa, 26-23. However, it is the Panthers seeking the regular-season sweep after earning a 66-60 victory at the McLeod Center on Jan. 21.

With a -1.9 scoring margin this season, it isn't any wonder the Sycamores have struggled to find wins on a more consistent basis. ISU is shooting a modest .429 form the floor overall, leading to 68.1 ppg, but give up just under 70 points per outing (69.7). There is some scoring depth on the Indiana State roster, as three players are currently averaging double figures. The best of the bunch is Devonte Brown, who nets 12.8 ppg. Brenton Scott (11.8 ppg) and Khristian Smith (10.1 ppg) aren't far behind.

The Sycamores started slow, but made up for it by shooting over 50 percent from the floor in the second half, including draining six 3-pointers in the final frame to earn a hard-fought six-point victory over Bradley. Four Sycamores reached double figures in the balanced attack, led by Scott's 13 points. Brown added 12, while Tre' Bennett and Justin Gant checked in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

It was the first matchup of ranked MVC foes in 33 years and UNI jumped out to a fast start, utilizing a 19-3 run to take a 35-21 lead into intermission. Northern Iowa shot a sterling 60 percent from the floor in the victory over Wichita State, as senior Seth Tuttle led the way with a career-high 29 points, on 9-of-13 shooting. Wes Washpun added 16 points off the bench for the Panthers, who held a 24-7 edge in bench points in the game.

Northern Iowa has really done a nice job at both ends of the floor this season. The team isn't putting up gaudy numbers offensively, but does make the most of its trips down the floor, shooting .482 overall, leading to 65.0 ppg. The defensive effort has been impressive as well, limiting foes to just 54.7 ppg on a mere .378 efficiency. Tuttle is the top playmaker on the roster. The 6-8 senior leads the conference in field-goal percentage (.615) and the team in both scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg). Washpun (9.1 ppg) has come off the bench in every game this season, but ranks second on the team in scoring.

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