Denver, CO – UNI’s Panthers (9-0) entered the night with a 23rd ranking in the latest AP Poll as well as 24th in the Coaches Poll as they sported a perfect 8-0 record. Northern Iowa’s last game and victory was against George Mason (71-65 OT) and they sport wins over Virginia Tech and Richmond. Nationally, UNI is ranked No. 18 in scoring defense (opponents score 55.25 points per game) and the Panthers have limited six of its eight opponents to 54 points or less. In the preseason rankings for the competitive Missouri Valley Conference, Northern Iowa was picked to finish second behind Wichita State.
For the Panthers, senior forward Seth Tuttle (6’8”, 240 lbs) entered the game averaging a very respectable and team-leading 16.4 ppg and 6.9 rpg., second best for UNI. Although a capable but rare threat from the 3-point arc (3-of-5 this season), Tuttle does shoot 64.7 percent from the field (44-of-68). Tuttle is the only player from Northern Iowa this season to reach double-figure scoring in every game. In active NCAA Division I teams, Tuttle is one of only three players to have scored 1,300 points, grabbed 700 rebounds and shoot 50 percent from the field. He has started all 109 games of his UNI career.
Undersized but hard-working 6’6” senior forward Marvin Singleton pulls down 7.3 rpg to lead the team this year and has a knack for the offensive glass with at least two per game. Senior point-guard and floor-leader Deon Mitchell (6’1”) will achieve his 1,000-point this season to go with 306 career assists (108 games) placing him 9th on the all-time list for UNI. Both upperclassmen have played key roles in the early success of the team.
For Denver (4-4), and their always a tough non-conference schedule with games against perennial mid-major powers Saint Mary’s and Belmont, they are led by the sweet-shooting, senior guard Brett Olson who was selected as the 2014-15 preseason Summit League Player of the Year. The 6’5” Olson is averaging 11.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg and 4.6 apg in Head Coach Joe Scott’s Princeton-style offense. Olson has played and started all 101 games in his career.
Despite their high energy, Denver could not match up with much taller and longer Panthers, and switched defenses early on in the first half. Just when DU would sag in against Singleton or Tuttle, UNI would hit a three. Within ten minutes, Northern Iowa had only missed one field goal (10-of-11) and built a 23-8 lead on the Pioneer home court. By halftime the score was 42-25 for UNI, and Denver’s Olsen was in foul trouble to go with zero points. The balanced Panthers saw eight players score and shot 88 percent from the field as a team in the first half. They were led by Mitchell’s nine points on 4-of-4 shooting. Denver was led by three players with six points each while shooting 45 percent as a team. UNI outrebounded the Pioneers by seven in the first twenty minutes, limiting DU to just four total rebounds.
Early in the second half both Olsen (Denver)and Singleton (UNI) picked up their fourth fouls as the Pioneers tried various combinations of zone pressure and sagging man defense to combat the superior length of the Panthers. But the threes just wouldn’t drop for DU (33%) and the visitor lead was still 13 points (50-37) with ten minutes left in the game. Additionally UNI kept the sharp-shooting Pioneers off the free-throw line (only three attempts in the games’ first 30 minutes). There just wasn’t enough time in the game for Denver to catch Northern Iowa, as the Panthers closed out a 65-55 road win.
For the game UNI shot a stellar 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field including 82 percent from the FT line while holding the Pioneers to 46 percent FG. Tuttle led four double-figure scorers for the Panthers and had a team-high four assists. DU had both Cam Griffin and Nate Engresser score 15 points.
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