GAME NOTES: Two teams with a lengthy history between them get together at the McLeod Center on Wednesday night, as the Northern Iowa Panthers entertain North Dakota in the first round of the 2013 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was moved back a day due to inclement weather.
Northern Iowa, which has won at least one postseason contest in each of the last three seasons, enters this relatively new tourney with a record of 18-14 overall and 11-7 in Missouri Valley Conference action. The Panthers, coached by Ben Jacobson who played for North Dakota in the early 1990s, have a record of 13-3 in their own building this year and would set a new school record with a victory in this outing.
As for North Dakota, representing the Big Sky Conference these days, it finished third in the league standings with a record of 12-8 and was 16-16 overall. In an interesting twist, UND head coach Brian Jones, now in his seventh season with the program, played for Northern Iowa during the same time that Jacobson was in Grand Forks.
The Panthers took part in this tournament back in 2011, taking out Rider at home by a score of 84-50 before bowing to SMU in a 57-50 final.
As for North Dakota, when it won the Great West Conference in 2010-11 and 2011-12 it was automatically entered into the CIT, but each time the team came up empty, first against Air Force, and then versus Drake.
After nearly three decades of being estranged, these two teams began playing each other once again when UND moved to the Division I level prior to the 2008-09 campaign, and have played four times since, with the Panthers winning every one of those matchups.
This is actually the second trip to the McLeod Center this season for UND, the team having been blown out by UNI in a 72-47 final back on Nov. 17. According to UND sources, the all-time series stands at 48-34 in favor of North Dakota, although the Panther are 24-15 over the years in Cedar Falls.
Although he missed a handful of games this season, Troy Huff is still the scoring leader for North Dakota with his 19.1 ppg. Already a member of the school's 1,000-point club, Huff shot 44.4 percent from the floor and led the program in rebounding with better than seven per contest, which somewhat explains why his touch at the free-throw line (.659) is not quite that strong. Aaron Anderson, another member of the 1,000-point club, did quite a bit of damage at the charity stripe where he was 85.4 percent accurate, while his 41.7 percent effort behind the 3-point line helped propel the team to more than six triples per contest and he to 13.5 ppg. Jamal Webb (9.6 ppg) might be an awkward perimeter shooter at only 27.4 percent, but his 129 assists in 31 appearances it what makes him so important.
Having run out the same starting lineup for much of the season, the Panthers are a team that gets the most out of those five players and not much else unfortunately. In fact, of their 66.1 ppg, almost 55 ppg stems from the primary quintet which begins with Anthony James and his 12.7 ppg. James missed the first three games of the campaign and another contest more recently, but still he is a consistent double-digit scorer for the group. Seth Tuttle checks in with 10.7 ppg, as does Jake Koch, each also clearing six and a half rebounds per game yet the team is only barely getting by the competition on the glass. While those top three scorers have combined to make 60 3-pointers, Marc Sonnen single-handedly surpasses them with his 86 connections from long range, en route to 10.3 ppg.
Rarely do non-conference teams get to see each other twice in one season, but even with that being the case, Northern Iowa still has something positive to carry over from the first matchup of the campaign. In fact, when you consider James didn't even play for the Panthers because he was suspended, UNI has an even bigger edge this time around.
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