Panthers take senior day, 64-52

PATRICK HANSEN, Sports Writer

The UNI Men’s basketball team traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., last Thursday following a loss to Loyola on the road and looking to continue their winning ways, but were unable to stop the Sycamores.

The Panthers opened up the game, not looking like themselves as they were down 26-12 after just nine minutes of play in the first half and only making two of their 14 three-point attempts, along with shooting an overall 8-31 to go into halftime, trailing 40-23.

As the Purple and Gold came out in the second half, the Panthers continued to struggle, allowing the Sycamores to extend their lead to 21 points early in the second. Despite winning the rebound battle, UNI just kept trading shots back and forth with the Sycamores until the 6:21 mark in the second half, when Isaiah Brown got hot, scoring seven in just a two and a half minutes to help the Panthers climb back to within one inside the final minute.

Even with the miraculous comeback for the Panthers, the need to foul and the free-throw success of the Sycamores propelled Indiana State to the three-point win, upsetting UNI and bringing the Panther’s record to 22-5, 11-4 in conference play.

Just three days later, fans of the Purple and Gold packed the seats at the McLeod Center as UNI hosted Southern Illinois for Senior Day. The Panthers were looking to avenge the loss to the Salukis earlier this season and started out on fire, as it seemed that every shot was falling as UNI went up 24-11 ten minutes into the game. But basketball is a game of runs, and the Salukis proved that to be true as in the last ten minutes, ending the half on a 25-2 run, giving Southern Illinois the 34-26 edge going into halftime.

As the second half opened, UNI claimed the lead after five minutes and the Panthers and Salukis traded baskets and leads. At the ten-minute mark, both Austin Phyfe and AJ Green were able to get to the free-throw line to switch the momentum that led to a 14-0 run over the next seven minutes for the Purple and Gold. As the lead grew larger, the crowd became louder to cheer on the seniors winning an impressive final game at home, 64-52.

Austin Phyfe and Isaiah Brown both finished with double digits in points, 17 for Phyfe and 15 for Brown, along with 11 offensive and 18 total rebounds, and two blocks for Phyfe to help propel the Panthers to the big Senior Day win.

The Panthers are currently projected to receive an at-large 11-seed to March Madness with two road games at Evansville and Drake remaining before the Arch Madness tournament in St. Louis, Miss., on March 5-8.