N. Dakota gets second chance at UNI in CIT

CEDAR FALLS – The Northern Iowa men’s basketball team will be playing in its fifth straight postseason game when the Panthers take on North Dakota at 7 p.m. tonight in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament at the McLeod Center.

In a game that was originally scheduled for Tuesday night, the Panthers will try for their second win of the season against UND. UNI beat North Dakota at the McLeod Center, 72-47, back on Nov. 17.

This time though, UND will have its leading scorer – Troy Huff – in the lineup. Huff missed the first game with an injury and is averaging 19 points per game and was a first-team all-Big Sky selection this season.

That game was all the way back in November,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “They did not have their leading scorer and best perimeter scorer. We got away from them in the second half.

“They have a healthy team and he will make a difference for their basketball team.”

A trio of juniors lead UND (16-16) in Huff, Aaron Anderson and Jamal Webb. Anderson averages 13.5 points per game and had 12 in the first meeting, while Webb scored nearly 10 points per contest. Huff also leads the team in rebounds at 7.1.

“They play fast. Move the ball well. Guards can handle the ball and can make plays,” said Jacobson about his first-round opponent. “They can score and defend and rebound inside enough too. They will be very different than the one we saw in November.”

The Panthers won’t feel sorry for UND not having Huff in the opener because UNI (18-14) also played the game without leading scorer Anthony James, who is one of four Panthers averaging in double-figures and is scoring a team-high 12.7 per contest.

Northern Iowa will try to use its home crowd and a balanced offensive attack to beat North Dakota. Seth Tuttle and Jake Koch are both averaging 10.7 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Marc Sonnen also is scoring in double-figures at 10.3 and Deon Mitchell scores 9.4 per tilt.

Sonnen, who shoots 45 percent from 3, also is just one game away from setting a new school record for games played at Northern Iowa. The next game he plays in will be his 136th, which passes Johnny Moran for tops in school history. Koch will move into a tie with Moran with his 135th game played when the game tips off tonight.

The Panthers are playing in their fifth straight postseason and have won at least one game in their last three tournaments with victories in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, 2011 CIT and the 2012 NIT.

Northern Iowa is 13-3 at home and has top 50 RPI wins over Creighton, St. Mary’s and Wichita State, which all are playing in the NCAA Tournament. North Dakota is 6-10 in road games this season. One more win at home for the Panthers will set a new school record for most home victories in a season.

North Dakota leads the all-time series against Northern Iowa but UNI has won four straight. Jacobson is a UND graduate and is 4-0 all-time against his former school. UND coach Brian Jones is a Northern Iowa graduate and is 0-4 all-time against the Panthers.

Jones has led the North Dakota program since its transition into Division I. UND finished third in the Big Sky Conference with a 12-8 record.

“He has done a nice job with that program,” Jacobson said of Jones. “They are very competitive at the Division I level. He has transitioned them nicely.”

Northern Iowa dominated the glass in the first meeting, out-rebounding North Dakota 41-28. Koch led three UNI players in double-figures with 16 points and eight rebounds.