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Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Illinois State Redbirds - 2/23/14

Illinois State Redbirds (15-12) at Northern Iowa Panthers (13-14)

College Basketball: Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 5:00 pm (McLeod Center)

The Line: Northern Iowa Panthers -6.5 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: ESPN3 / Fox Sports Midwest / CSN Chicago

The Northern Iowa Panthers clash with the visiting Illinois State Redbirds on Sunday afternoon in Cedar Falls, Iowa in a battle for 3rd place in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Northern Iowa is 9-2 at home for the season, with their only losses coming at the hands of #3 Wichita State and Indiana State. They have won 9 or more conference games in 10 consecutive seasons under head Coach Ben Jacobsen. Their road performances have been another story as they have only logged 2 road wins – their last coming at Drake, who is near the bottom of the league. UNI comes in shooting 45.2% from the field and 36% from 3-point range, which is a bit low for Northern Iowa teams in recent years. Junior forward Seth Tuttle is having an outstanding season with 14.9 ppg and 7.9 rebounds per game. Right behind Tuttle in scoring are junior mates Deon Mitchell (12.7 ppg) and Nate Buss (10.9 ppg). 2 others average 9+ points per game to round out a well-balanced offensive attack that registers nearly 74 points per game, while their opponents score just over 70.

Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Illinois State Redbirds - 2/23/14

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois State has similar results away from home with a 3-8 road record and just 1 road win in the league. They are not a very good shooting team and are prone to taking ill-advised shots – many of them coming from behind the arc. Newcomer Daishon Knight has been solid all season and leads the ‘Birds in scoring with 13.2 ppgs, but it was around 17 before league play began. Defenses are keying in on him, as there are not too many other prolific scorers on the team. Bobby Hunter (11 ppg) and Zach Lofton (10.1 ppg) are the other double-digit scorers. They do get pretty good production from 4 other players who average between 5 and 8 points per game. They are a bit down in rebounding with a -2.3 rebounding margin. Second year head coach Dan Muller (a former Redbird standout) is doing a good job with this squad full of newcomers, and knows this is not a championship-caliber year, so to be in a position to fight for 3rd place this late in the season is noteworthy.

Illinois State won the first meeting between these two. There is a lot on the line with this game, but Illinois State is one of those team that is going to pull off the unexpected upset or lose by a good margin. I’m leaning on them to lose by a good margin, as the Panthers know how to win big games at home. UNI has also won the last 9 games on the Panthers’ home floor.

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Northern Iowa -6.5

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