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Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Bradley Braves - 1/1/14

Bradley Braves (5-8) at Northern Iowa Panthers (6-6)

College Basketball: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8:00 pm (McLeod Center)

The Line: Northern Iowa Panthers -12 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: Fox Sports Midwest, Comcast Sports Net - Chicago, Fox College Sports (Central)

The UNI Panthers look to start the Missouri Valley Conference season with a home win on Wednesday night in Cedar Falls against the Bradley Braves.

Bradley was looking like a team that would be a top half Missouri Valley Conference team with a 4-0 start to the season. Since their lopsided loss at Illinois in late November, they haven’t been able to find any rhythm. Teams have figured out that they don’t know how to handle full-court pressure well or how to bust the zone. In their most recent game vs. South Florida though, they knocked down 5 of 12 three pointers and had the lead throughout most of the game before collapsing in the final minutes. They have been good defensively and rebound well, which might help them in the conference season. The key to the Braves’ success will be finding ways to score.

Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Bradley Braves - 1/1/14

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

The Braves are led by senior slasher Walt Lemon Jr., who has tried to carry the load at times. Fellow senior Tyshon Pickett is an inside threat and averages 13.1 ppg. For some reason, sharpshooter Omari Grier, a sophomore transfer from FAU, has not seen the floor as much lately and his scoring production has dipped as a result, which makes it even tougher to score with a depleted bench that only gives them a little more than 10 points per game.

Northern Iowa on the flipside has seemed to found its mojo of late and reeled off another impressive home victory against a decent Iona team. Among the other Panthers’ victims at home are LaSalle and VCU. Their three point shooting had been cold until last game when they scorched the nets for 12 treys and shot them at 45%. That has been a key to success for UNI teams in the past, and that will be no different as league play commences.

Bradley got trounced in the first meeting in Cedar Falls last year by 30+ and managed to hang around in the CIT tournament before losing 90-77. I see kind of the same thing being carried out in this one as the Braves hang close, but poor shooting allows the Panthers to pull away by double-digits. This one for me is a no play as it could be a 20-point blowout or a 7-8 point loss to Bradley. They are tough to figure out.

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