Panthers win two over conference opponents



UNI men’s basketball defeated conference opponents Evansville and Illinois State last week.


It was a week filled with victory for the UNI men’s basketball team as they overcame their heartbreaking overtime defeat to Drake last Saturday by beating two conference opponents in Evansville on Wednesday, Jan. 26 and Illinois State on Saturday, Jan. 29. 

Wednesday’s game at Evansville almost played the same tune as the Drake game, with the Purple Aces nearly completing a second-half rally. Before that, the Panthers got their offense going quickly as they took an 11-3 lead within the first five minutes. Eventually, that lead withered away as the Purple Aces continually converted three-pointers. Nate Heise and Bowen Born led the team on a 7-0 run to end the half with a 35-27 lead. 

The second half was nearly a repeat of the first as UNI got off to a hot start and extended their lead to 15, which was slowly erased by a barrage of three-pointers by Evansville. But the Panther men never backed down, and maintained their lead until the end, winning 64-59. 

Heise’s great inside game netted him 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds. AJ Green led the team in scoring with 18 points, which pushed him over the 1,500 career point milestone. Green now sits seventh all-time in program history, passing Eric Coleman during Sunday’s contest. The win also gave the Panthers the season sweep over Evansville, the eighth time it’s happened under head coach Ben Jacobson. 

Riding their road victory momentum, the Panthers returned home for a Saturday matchup against the Redbirds of Illinois State. 

Unlike their early explosiveness in Wednesday’s game, the Panthers struggled out the gate this time, only converting eight of their 29 shot attempts, 14 of which came from behind the arc. But even with their misses, the Panthers didn’t give up as they relentlessly crashed the offensive glass, securing 12 offensive rebounds. The number 12 kept appearing in UNI’s favor, as Illinois State committed 12 first-half fouls against the Panthers, which led to 12 made free throws. UNI ended the half strongly with a 30-28 lead. Freshman Tytan Anderson provided a spark for the Panther offense in the first half, who scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in the first 20 minutes. He got a roar out of the McLeod Center crowd with a converted tip-in layup while being fouled and gave the Panthers a strong momentum boost with his energy off the bench. 

The lid that was on the basket in the first half came off in the second as the Panthers dramatically improved their offensive efficiency, shooting 75% from the field on 24 shot attempts. The Redbirds, on the other hand, were only able to convert 40% of theirs. 

A 16-3 early run gave the Panthers a steady lead throughout the half, with the lead eventually ballooning to 23 at one point. By the end, the Panthers had comfortably won by 15, 79-64.

Noah Carter and AJ Green led the team in the second half with a combined 29 points, with Green knocking in four three-pointers. The team as a whole dished out nine assists in the half, along with going perfect at the free-throw line on 13 attempts. 

UNI has now won five straight over Illinois State and improves to an 11-9 overall record and 7-3 within the Missouri Valley Conference, which puts them tied for third-place with Missouri State. 

The Panthers will stay home for their next contest against Bradley on Wednesday, Feb. 2. The team will be supporting the ERACISM Social Inclusion Movement during the game, which includes them wearing black warm-up shirts.