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Bradley Braves vs. Northern Iowa Panthers - 1/22/14

Northern Iowa Panthers (10-8) at Bradley Braves (7-12)

College Basketball: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm (Carver Arena)

The Line: Bradley Braves +5.5 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: None

The Northern Iowa Panthers aim to stay in 3rd place in the Valley as they travel to Peoria, Illinois to take on the Bradley Braves at Carver Arena.

Northern Iowa has been winning fairly consistently after a sluggish non-conference part of the schedule. Head coach Ben Jacobsen’s squads seem to kick it up a notch when the conference season begins and this season seems no different. At 4-2 in the Valley, Northern Iowa has been shooting lights out from the field. They are at 46% for the season, but it was just a tad over 40% for a long time before they got hot. Guys have found their 3-point stroke, which has been a big part of the Panthers’ success in recent seasons. They may not have the caliber of players and chemistry that took them to the Sweet 16 a few seasons ago (if you recall, they scored the biggest upset after beating #1 Kansas in the 2nd round). In their last game vs. Missouri State, they shot 67% from the floor and nailed 13 of 21 from long range. The Panthers are led by the trio of juniors, Seth Tuttle (13.8 ppg),  Deon Mitchell (12.7 ppg), and Nate Buss (11 ppg). They have a luxury in 2 point guards (Deon Mitchell and Wes Washpun)  that handle the ball well, with 65 an 66 assists respectively. Ben Jacobsen has his Panther teams playing well at this time of the year and they will be a threat to finish in the top 3 teams in the Valley. They are a very tough team at home, but come in with just a 1-6 record on the road.

Bradley Braves vs. Northern Iowa Panthers - 1/22/14

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley is coming off of just their 2nd win in their last 12 and maybe that’s just what they needed after taking a pounding at Wichita State – a 22 point loss that was not indicative of just how they were dominated in every aspect. One thing they’ve been pretty consistent in is rebounding. This has been a big problem for the Braves in recent years, but this has kept them in games even when their shooting woes persisted. They do not have many pure shooters, and score a lot off the dribble with a bunch of slashers. One guy that has been a key contributor this season is Western Michigan transfer, forward Auston Barnes. He is somewhere around 10 pppg and 6 rebounds, but does a lot of little things and has become a leader and makes bigger shots than anyone. He hit a 3-ball to put the Braves up for good in their last home game to put separation from the clingy SIU Salukis. The Braves have centered their offense around senior PG Walt Lemon Jr., who was a preseason candidate for Valley Player-of-the-Year. He has been very good in conference, netting nearly 20 ppg. He has struggled with consistency in his college career at BU, but is tough to stop when he gets hot and drives the lane and finishes with the best of them in the league.

Head coach Geno Ford may not be in hot water yet, in just his 3rd season at Bradley, but the expectations in Peoria are high for him to get them back to contenders in the Valley – at the very least to finish in the top half this season. They have been a bit disappointing and they couldn't put the wheels together after they fell apart after a nice 4-0 start. They have the capability to win at home on any given night, but I think they fall just short in this one. The Panthers have won 5 straight games in this series for the first time ever. I will take 5.5 points with the home team, as UNI has not proven to play well away from home.

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