N. Iowa-Bradley Preview

Backed by one of the stingiest defenses in the country, Northern Iowa appears to be facing its next opponent at the right time as it returns to the Top 25 following a week’s hiatus.

With Seth Tuttle looking to continue his strong play in the series, the 23rd-ranked Panthers seek their fourth consecutive victory Tuesday night when they visit offensively challenged Bradley.

Northern Iowa, which is chasing unbeaten Wichita State and Indiana State in Missouri Valley Conference play, ranks 10th nationally with 55.4 points allowed per game while holding opponents to a league-low 38.5 percent shooting.

The Panthers (14-2, 3-1) have been at their best defensively over their last two games, surrendering a total of 79 points on 32.1 percent shooting while beating Southern Illinois and Drake by a combined 40.

After trailing by two points late in the first half Saturday, Northern Iowa went on a 32-2 run en route to its 64-40 victory at Drake. It was the club’s third straight win since a 52-49 loss at Evansville on Jan. 1 that knocked it from the poll.

Bradley (6-11, 1-3), loser in eight of 10 conference games, has picked the wrong time to go into a shooting slump. The Braves have averaged 49.5 points on 33.3 percent shooting – including 7 for 33 from 3-point range – over two straight defeats.

Omari Grier had a team-high 15 points Saturday against Evansville, while Tramique Sutherland (12) and Josh Cunningham (10) were the only other players to reach double figures in a 66-56 loss that ended a six-game home winning streak.

The Panthers, meanwhile, shot 59.5 percent against the Bulldogs and have won six of eight road/neutral site games while shooting 51.2 percent.

Jeremy Morgan had 15 points and eight rebounds, Deon Mitchell scored a season high-tying 14 and Tuttle added 12.

Tuttle has scored 15.8 per game in his last four and is shooting 63.5 percent from the field, 12th in the nation among players with at least 100 field-goal attempts. The senior forward has averaged 21.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in his past three against the Braves.

Northern Iowa now will try to get some open looks against a Bradley team that allowed a season-worst 53.3 field-goal percentage against Evansville.

The Panthers have won 12 of the last 15 meetings, but had a five-game series winning streak snapped despite Tuttle’s 20 points in a 69-65 loss at Carver Arena last Jan. 22.

Bradley’s Warren Jones, averaging a team-high 13.7 points, scored six Saturday after missing eight games because of a stress fracture in his foot. Junior center Jermaine Morgan might be available after a five-game absence due to a high ankle sprain.

The Braves have lost their last 10 games versus ranked opponents by an average of 20.4 points dating to a 68-59 home win over No. 19 Northern Iowa on Feb, 13, 2010.