Daily Egyptian

Scouting the Panthers

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU men’s basketball got through the first round of Missouri Valley Conference play with a 7-2 record and kicks off the second half at Northern Iowa, where the Salukis haven’t won since 2003. 

SIU (18-4, 7-2 MVC) has never won at the Panthers (11-11, 3-6 MVC) McLeod Center, the only arena in the MVC the Salukis have not won.

Coach Barry Hinson said he doesn’t know what it is, but each program has one place where they can’t win, and SIU’s is Cedar Falls. 

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The Panthers are 6-3 at home this season, including a win against No. 2 North Carolina.

When the two met on Jan. 2 at SIU Arena, the Salukis won 75-73 thanks in part to a season-high 32-point outing from senior guard Anthony Beane.

SIU shot 59.1 percent from 3-point range in the game, its second-best performance of the season.

The game was thought to be a marquee win, but has not turned out to be as such because of UNI’s struggles this season.

The Panthers’ three MVC wins are against Bradley (twice) and Drake, the bottom two teams in the conference.

SIU has beaten four teams UNI lost to: Missouri State, Indiana State, Illinois State and Loyola.

Despite this, Northern Iowa is still dangerous because of their offensive efficiency. The Panthers are in the top five of the conference in field goal percentage (43.5 percent, No. 5), 3-point field goal percentage (37.1 percent, No. 3) and free throw percentage (73.6 percent, No. 2) in conference games. 

However, the Salukis have been better from the field with a 47.2 field goal percentage (No. 3) and 38.9 3-point field goal percentage (No. 2).

The Panthers’ Achilles heel in conference play is their 3-point defense. UNI has allowed MVC teams to shoot 40.7 percent from behind the arc, the worst in the conference.

However, UNI’s starters have been getting the job done. Seniors Wes Washpun (14.2), Paul Jesperson (12.4), Matt Bohannon (12.4) and junior Jeremy Morgan (10.3) all average 10 points per game. 

SIU has two double-figure scorers entering the contest in Beane (19.8) and junior forward Sean O’Brien (12.5), but have two more on the cusp of double figures. Junior guards Mike Rodriguez and Leo Vincent each average 9.4 points per game.

Washpun again remains a multi-faceted threat for the Panthers as he is the only player in the conference to average more than 10 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.

The Panthers bench has not been as intimidating. The entire bench combined averages 18 points per game. By comparison, the Saluki bench has averaged 24.3 points per game this season.

If the Salukis are able to catch fire from deep and force UNI to get contributions off the bench, they should be able to advance to 9-0 on the road and continue the nation’s longest road winning streak.

The Salukis and Panthers tip off at 3 p.m.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3304

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