Northern Colorado (1-4) at Northern Iowa (4-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 5, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McCleod Center (10,000) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: None. Home Record: UNC 1-1, UNI 4-0. Away Record: UNC 0-3, UNI 0-0. Neutral Record: UNC 0-0, UNI 0-3. Conference Record: UNC 0-0, UNI 0-0. Series Record: UNI leads 1-0.
GAMES NOTES: Looking to put an end to a four-game losing streak, the Northern Colorado Bears will head to the McCleod Center to battle the Northern Iowa Panthers in non-conference action Wednesday night.
Since winning its season opener, Northern Colorado has been unable to get into the win column with losses in four straight games after a 69-63 loss at UC Riverside. Three of those four losses have come on the road where the Bears will be spending the majority of the early season. Nine of the team's first 12 games are away from home including the Bears' next game against Wichita State.
Northern Iowa pushed itself above .500 and rebounded from a three-game slide with a 72-61 win over Milwaukee last time out. The three-game losing streak that preceded that win came against some tough competition in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament where the Panthers suffered losses to Louisville, Stanford and Memphis. Northern Iowa opens up a three-game road trip next against George Mason.
These teams met for the first time last season with Northern Iowa posting a 78-69 victory in a matchup also at the McCleod Center.
A poor offensive showing in the first half doomed Northern Colorado against UC Riverside. The Bears hit just 5-of-27 field goal attempts in the first half to fall behind 28-16 at halftime. Although the Bears then scored 47 points in the second half they allowed the Highlanders to shoot at a 60.0 percent pace while getting outscored 15-9 from the free throw line. Tate Unruh finished the game with 17 points, 15 of which came from beyond the arc, and 14 of which came after the break.
Even though the Bears have a losing record they have still managed to maintain a positive scoring differential (+0.8). Northern Colorado connects on 46.6 percent of its shots from the floor compared to 40.1 percent by foes. The scoring is keyed out of the backcourt by Tevin Svihovec (11.2 ppg) and Unruh (11.2 ppg). Unruh plays the most minutes on the team and is a player that relies heavily on his shot from the outside. The 6-foot-5 guard has attempted the most 3-pointers in the Big Sky (2.8 pg) and has hit eight triples in the last two games. In the frontcourt Derrick Barden (10.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Tim Huskisson (10.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are solid but undersized with each listed at 6- foot-5.
Northern Iowa pulled away in the second half against Milwaukee by shooting 60.9 percent in the final 20 minutes to secure the win. The Panthers' perimeter defense was lacking in the contest as the team was outscored 30-18 from 3-point range. Northern Iowa made up for that with a 12-3 edge from the free-throw line. Nate Buss nailed 8-of-9 shots off the bench and had a team- leading 17 points.
The Panthers do not score like Northern Colorado does, turning in a 67.7 points per game average. However, Northern Iowa is a much superior defensive team. The Panthers surrender only 58.3 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting, both of which rank in the top 50 nationally. Deon Mitchell (14.3 ppg, 4.0 apg) is the only player scoring in double figures but has managed to be the top distributor as well. Mitchell is selective with his shots also and hits on 53.8 percent of his field goal attempts. Jake Koch (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is certainly capable of putting up points consistently and also leads the team on the glass. Balance is key for the Panthers on offense, as seven different players score at least 6.6 points per game.
No one has been able to beat Northern Iowa at home. The only teams that have been able to top the Panthers are some of the better squads in the country. Unfortunately for Northern Colorado, the Bears don't fall into that category.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 76, Northern Colorado 64
12/05 10:37:18 ET