Panthers defeat conference rivals Bradley, Drake

The UNI men’s basketball team improved to 9-3 in Missouri Valley Conference play with victories over Bradley on Wednesday and on the road against Drake on Saturday. They have won their last four games nine of their last 11 to improve to a second-place standing in the Valley.

CADEN SHEA, Sports Editor

The UNI men’s basketball looked strong this week as they took down two MVC opponents this week when they defeated Bradley University at home on Feb. 1 and Drake in Des Moines on Feb. 5. These victories extended the Panther’s current win streak to four wins as move closer to the top of the conference standings

Wednesday’s game against Bradley was a sort of revenge game for the Panthers as they were defeated by these same Braves in Peoria 71-69 early in the season. This game was also a chance to break a four game win streak held by Bradley. The Panthers got off to a slow start early into the game as they trailed 10-3 about six minutes into the game. However, led by strong defense and consistent three-point shooting, the Panthers were able to steer clear of the deficit and take a 37-28 halftime lead

The second half of the game was another strong showing for the Panthers as they took the game into the next level. They led by as many as 25 points in the second half and never let Bradley get into their rhythm offensively. Noah Carter and Trae Berhow both scored 19 points to lead the offensive effort for UNI. Berhow’s 5-7 from the 3-point arc helped cement this game in favor of the Panthers as they won yet another crucial conference game late in the season. 

UNI’s next challenge came against the Drake Bulldogs in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday night. The Bulldogs recently defeated the Panthers 82-74 in an overtime duel at UNI on Jan. 22, making this yet another revenge game for the UNI Panthers this week. UNI went into this game looking to score yet another conference win, this time against an in-state rival. 

The Bulldogs started the game hot, going on a 7-0 run to open the game. This first half was highly contested between the two teams as they traded points for the bulk of it. Drake led by as many as ten in the first half  One strength of this game was the Panthers’ ability to grab offensive rebounds as they managed to record eight in the first half alone. The Bulldogs finished the half on top with the Panthers trailing 36-34. 

The second half was yet another hot affair for both teams. Neither team could really carry momentum in this half with the lead changing 13 times over the course of it. The UNI team played a very physical game to contest with the Bulldogs. They rarely avoided contact and managed to make their way to the free throw line on several occasions. UNI led by three points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. However, a layup by Drake player Roman Penn with thirteen seconds remaining would send both teams into yet another overtime game this year. 

The overtime was a shining example of what this Panthers team has become over the season as UNI held the Bulldogs to only one field goal in overtime, outscoring them 11-6 in the extra time. The Panthers were led by Carter with 26 points and seven rebounds while Tywhon Pickford led in rebounds for the Panthers with 12. 

The Panthers look to continue their current winning streak with a game at home against Southern Illinois on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the McLeod Center. They will then hit the road to Chicago as they face Loyola-Chicago on Sunday, Feb 13.