MBB season cut short in St. Louis


Toni Fortmann

Following their first-round victory in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Thursday in St. Louis, UNI’s men’s basketball season was cut short due to COVID-19 complications.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

The 2021 Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament tipped off on Thursday, March 4 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo. with UNI matched up in their first-round contest with Illinois State. The two teams had met the previous weekend in Normal, Ill. for their final two games of the regular season, with UNI winning both contests. Playing for the third time in six days, the Redbirds and Panthers were more than familiar with each other’s playing style, as evident by the hard-fought, grind-it-out game that took place on Thursday night in St. Louis. Following 11 lead changes and 14 ties in the score, the Panthers eventually edged out a 65-60 victory to advance to the quarterfinals.

Illinois State had a slight control in the game in the first half and led for much of the first 20 minutes of play, opening up a lead by as much as seven points before UNI narrowed it down to a 30-29 lead at the break. Both teams shot an even percentage from the floor in the first half, with the Redbirds making 13-28 shots and the Panthers hitting 12-27 shots taken. The back-and-forth battle between the two MVC rivals persisted in the second half, as neither team could open up a lead larger than five points for the majority of the remaining time. Clinging to a four-point lead at 62-58 with under one minute to go, senior Trae Berhow knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the Panther lead to 65-58, effectively sealing the game.

Junior Austin Phyfe was phenomenal for the Purple & Gold, leading the team in scoring with 21 points on 9-14 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and two steals. Senior Tywhon Pickford also had a solid game, scoring 11 points and making five of his six shots from the field, along with nine rebounds and three steals of his own. Dusan Mahorcic led Illinois State in scoring with 15 points.

Both teams fared well on the interior for the game as each team looked to their big men to score. UNI scored 38 points in the paint, with Illinois State scoring 32 points in the paint. Both teams struggled shooting from three in the game. The Panthers only hit four of 21 shots from beyond the arc and their opponents only hit four out of 23 taken.

With the victory in the first round, UNI advanced to Friday to take on the number-two seeded Drake. However, just before the game was scheduled to tip off, it was announced that due to COVID-19 complication within the UNI program that the game would not be played, ending the season for UNI and advancing Drake to the semi finals. The Panthers ended the season with a 10-15 record.