Bradley challenges No. 11 Northern Iowa

Feb 21, 2015 - 3:47 PM Cedar Falls, IA ( - Two teams at opposite ends of the Missouri Valley Conference standings get together on Saturday afternoon, as the 11th-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers entertain the Bradley Braves at the McLeod Center.

Not only are the Panthers tied with Wichita State for the top spot in the MVC entering the weekend at an impressive 14-1, the squad also owns a lengthy 14- game win streak which is the fourth-longest in the country. With a victory this weekend, UNI would tie the school record for consecutive wins. Three nights ago Northern Iowa paid a visit to the Windy City and blew away Loyola- Chicago in a 58-39 final, marking the second time this season the Panthers have held a league foe below 40 points.

As for the Braves, they've managed to come up with just three wins in 15 tries versus the rest of the league, tying them for last place in the MWC with Southern Illinois. Overall, Bradley has the worst winning percentage (.286) among Missouri Valley members, after losing to Illinois State on Wednesday at home, 60-47. The defeat was the third in a row and the sixth in seven tries for the program.

Bradley may lead the all-time series between the squads, 28-25, but the Panthers have won nine of the last 11 meetings and are 8-1 versus the Braves at the McLeod Center. Last month, the Braves lost at home to UNI, 63-52.

The Braves knocked down just eight field goals in the first half against Illinois State, giving them a shooting percentage of .381, but in the second half it only got worse as the program again connected on eight field goal tries, but this time the accuracy dipped to a mere 24.2 percent, en route to the double-digit loss. Omari Grier emerged as the lone double-digit scorer for Bradley with 10 points, the only player to make more than three baskets for the hosts. Auston Barnes came close to a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, but still it wasn't enough to compete.

Warren Jones, who tallied nine points and six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench the last time out, is listed as the leading scorer for the Braves with his 13.1 ppg, although he has appeared in just 16 games and made only two starts. It also doesn't bode well for the team that their leading point producer is shooting only 36.0 percent from the floor and missed all five of his attempts beyond the arc on Wednesday. Barnes pitches in with 10.3 ppg, thanks in large part to 87.7 percent accuracy at the free-throw line.

The Panthers didn't exactly shoot the lights out earlier this week against Loyola, hitting field goals at a 45.8 percent clip, 3-pointers with 39.1 percent accuracy and just 5-of-9 at the free-throw line, but when the defense is playing that well the offense doesn't have to always shine. Northern Iowa forced 15 turnovers and allowed only 16 field goals, just 6-of-17 shooting beyond the arc, not to mention sending the Ramblers to the free-throw line only two times.

Scoring the first points of the night and never looking back, the Panthers leaned on Nate Buss and Seth Tuttle who both tallied 10 points, the latter adding seven rebounds, five assists and three steals during the festivities. Marvin Singleton accounted for only four points, but his significant contribution saw him tie the entire Loyola squad with four offensive rebounds.

Tuttle is clearly the leader on the Panthers in so many ways, not the least of which is his scoring punch since he is the only one putting up double figures on the campaign with 16.0 ppg, bumping it to 17.7 ppg in conference play. He is also first with 6.5 rpg and 88 assists, all while shooting an astonishing 62.7 percent from the floor. But aside from Tuttle, the key to UNI's success has been a defense which has held foes to only 54.3 ppg.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!