Panthers complete sweep vs Illinois State


Toni Fortmann

UNI’s Bowen Born scored 12 points on Friday and a team-high 21 points on Saturday. Both games were victories for the Panthers, who will now match up with Illinois State again on Thursday for the MVC tournament.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

It took the entirety of the 2020-21 season, but the UNI men’s basketball team finally completed a sweep in Missouri Valley Conference play. Matched up with MVC opponent Illinois State, the two teams were looking to fight for position in next week’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis. UNI came into the two-game set with a 5-11 conference record, with Illinois State coming in at 4-12. The two games were two completely different stories: UNI controlled the entirety of game one en route to a 70-56 victory, and game two needed two overtime periods to decide the winner, with UNI winning 94-87. The two wins, along with other game results around the MVC, locks the Panthers into the 7th seed in next week’s conference tournament, where they will play 10th-seeded Illinois State on Thursday, March 4.

The Panthers led for much of game one on Friday night, leading by the score of 28-15 at one point and held a 34-25 at halftime. The Redbirds would bounce back to keep the game within single digits, but could never get over the hump and trailed the rest of the way. Four Panthers reached double-digit scoring in the game, led by Trae Berhow’s 15. Bowen Born and Noah Carter each had 12 a piece and Austin Phyfe put in 11 for UNI. The Panthers capitalized off of Redbird turnovers, scoring 18 points off of 22 Illinois State miscues.

Game one was also a battle of featured big men: Illinois State’s Dusan Mahorcic and UNI’s Austin Phyfe. Mahorcic led the Redbirds in scoring with 18 points and eight rebounds along with 7-10 shooting from the field. Phyfe put in 11 and had eight rebounds himself and also only missed three shots, going 4-7.

The second game on Saturday night was an exciting, hard-fought overtime victory for the Panthers. The game started well for UNI as they got out to an early 17-9 lead. Soon after, the tides turned in favor of the home team, as the Redbirds closed out the half on a 28-13 run and led by eight at the half. In the second half, UNI came back to knot the score at 49 all off of a tighter defensive effort and fewer turnovers. The final 11 minutes of the game were within one possession, and eventually went into overtime tied at 70. Early in OT, Illinois State jumped out to a five-point advantage off of a Josiah Strong jump shot and a D.J. Horne three-pointer. Upon building an 81-79 lead, UNI’s Noah Carter fouled Illinois State’s Dusan Mahorcic with four seconds remaining, and the big man cashed in both foul shots to tie the game at 81, meaning five more minutes of game was to be played. The second OT saw UNI jump out to a quick lead, one they wouldn’t give up. The final score of game two was 94-87.

The two wins moved the Panthers to 7-11 in conference play. However, due to a tiebreaker with Evansville and Valparaiso, UNI dropped to the 7th seed in the conference tournament next week and will match up with Illinois State again. The game will tip off at 8pm on Thursday, March 4 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The winner of the game will advance to face Drake the following day.