Dec 8, 2012; Fairfax, VA, USA; Northern Iowa Panthers guard Deon Mitchell (1) looks to pass the ball off during the second half at the Patriot Center against the George Mason Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State vs Northern Iowa men's basketball: Game preview and prediction

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There isn’t much that Fred Hoiberg hasn’t been able to solve during his tenure as Iowa State (6-0) men’s basketball head coach, but finding a way to defeat Northern Iowa (3-4) is one of them. This year will likely be the best opportunity The Mayor has to get a win against the in-state rival, but history has shown that anything can happen in these in-state rivalry games.

Dec 2, 2013; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard DeAndre Kane (50) shoots over guard Dion Wade (11) of the Auburn Tigers at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Tigers 99-70. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

(17)Iowa State Cyclones vs Northern Iowa Panthers

Wells Fargo Arena | Des Moines, Iowa
Tip-off: Saturday, 5:00 PM CT | TV: MC22 (Cyclones.tv)

The Hy-Vee Big Four Classic kicks off with the Cyclones and the Panthers on Saturday night in Des Moines. It’s the second year that both of the bigger schools will alternate matchups with the smaller schools every year.

Northern Iowa has alternated wins and losses all year. Shooting the ball efficiently has been a major problem, only making 43.2 percent of shots from the field (229th nationally) and can’t get second chance opportunities with just 9.1 offensive rebounds per game (303rd nationally).

In general, the Panthers struggle at rebounding, grabbing just 241 on the season. That ranks second-to-last in the Missouri Valley.

All of the above also matches up horribly against the Cyclones, who are 4th nationally in points per game (91.8) and 5th nationally in rebounds per game (46.7). Everything on paper has this as a blowout – if it wasn’t for Hoiberg’s 0-2 record against them and the team’s overall 1-5 stretch against them in the last six games.

[Also see: ISU-UNI players to watch]

What to watch for

What UNI will try to accomplish to balance out the mismatches is making 3-point shots with Iowa State. Chip Rank, Matt Bohannon, and Nate Buss are the triple-threat, making 30 percent or more of their attempts beyond the arc (36 of 101 combined).

Also, it’s imperative for ISU to avoid foul trouble. Everyone rarely misses when they get to the line; the only one that’s had some struggles is Deon Mitchell, whose made 26 of 36 this season.

Melvin Ejim recorded another double-double in the win over Auburn last Monday (14 points, 10 rebounds), and don’t be surprised to see him pick one up here. Him, Dustin Hogue, and DeAndre Kane should dominate the glass.

What will be interesting to watch is to see any improvement from Georges Niang. He’s been clutch down the stretch, but he found himself in foul trouble again last time out. If he wants to be a factor in the final minutes, he needs to find a way to stay on the court.

Prediction

No Hilton Magic will be necessary for Hoiberg to get his first victory over UNI. This is a mismatch in two of Iowa State’s three biggest strengths. The Panthers will keep things interesting as long as they hit from downtown, but don’t expect the Cyclones to come out flat. Kane will rebound from a weak performance offensively by his standards last Monday.

They won’t be looking ahead when it comes to in-state rivalries, and UNI’s streak of alternating wins and losses will come to end when ISU hands them their second straight loss.

IAST 84, UNI 70 (Odds: ISU -9.5)

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Tags: Basketball Deon Mitchell Fred Hoiberg Iowa State Cyclones Melvin Ejim

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