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Hawkeye State rivals meet, as Cyclones challenge Panthers

<p>Hawkeye State rivals meet on a neutral court on Saturday, as the 17th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones take on the Northern Iowa Panthers in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena.</p>

Des Moines, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - Hawkeye State rivals meet on a neutral court on Saturday, as the 17th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones take on the Northern Iowa Panthers in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena.

After starting the season unranked, Iowa State has risen all the way to No. 17 thanks to a 6-0 start, with its signature win so far coming at home against then-No. 7 Michigan on Nov. 17, 77-60. The Cyclones most recently dismissed Auburn in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Monday night, 99-70.

Meanwhile, UNI has had fleeting success in the first month of the season, as it sits at just 3-4. The Panthers experienced some luck in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas early last week with wins over Loyola Marymount (90-81) and LaSalle (65-50), but they fell short in their return to the mainland with an 83-72 setback at Milwaukee on Tuesday.

UNI has beaten Iowa State on three straight occasions, but the Cyclones still lead the all-time series, 35-12.

The Cyclones had no problem dismissing Auburn earlier in the week, as they shot 45.2 percent from the floor (including 13-of-35 from 3-point range) and held a firm advantage on the glass (47-36) en route to the 29-point victory. Dustin Hogue powered the team to victory behind a career-best performance, as he tallied 22 points and 16 rebounds. Melvin Ejim (14 points, 10 rebounds) also recorded a double-double, while Monte Morris (12 points, nine assists) narrowly missed one. Matt Thomas chipped in with 14 points, while Naz Long rounded out the balanced effort with 11 points. Iowa State has gotten used to potent offensive performances, as it shoots 50 percent from the field for 91.8 points per game, 26.7 points more than it allows. Ejim (17.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Hogue (12.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg) are an outstanding duo in the frontcourt, while DeAndre Kane stuffs the stat sheet with 15.0 points. 7.5 boards and 5.2 assists per game. Georges Niang (11.7 ppg), Long (11.0 ppg) and Thomas (10.8 ppg) are also regular performers for one of the deepest teams in the nation.

Despite leading by 11 early in the second half of its latest game, UNI allowed Milwaukee to rip off a 30-5 run as it lost control of the contest. Of the team's 40.6 percent shooting performance, it went only 5-of-24 from beyond the arc (.208). Deon Mitchell paced the squad in defeat with 19 points and four assists. Wes Washpun netted 16 points off the bench, while Chip Rank had 13. Despite their losing record, the Panthers still boast a +2.3 scoring margin, although their shooting percentages from the field (.432) and 3-point range (.323) could certainly stand some improvement. Mitchell is one of the few standouts with 14.3 points per game on 50 percent from the floor. Seth Tuttle (12.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) works as an anchor down low, Rank brings 11.7 points per game to the table on 16-of-44 from long distance, and Matt Bohannon (9.9 ppg) falls just shy of the double-digit scorers club.

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