Panthers fall to Loyola, defeat Illinois State



The Panther men’s basketball team split their two-game Illinois road swing, losing to Loyola Chicago on Sunday but defending Illinois State last Tuesday. They will return home on Sunday, Feb. 20 against Missouri State.


After winning their previous game at home against Southern Illinois, the UNI men’s basketball team went out on the road to face-off against the team they had overtaken as leaders in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). This was the first meeting between the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago and the Panthers, with their next matchup being the final game of the regular season. And unfortunately for UNI, they’ll have to look to that game to get their revenge as Loyola dominated at home this past Sunday with an 85-58 victory.

The game opened evenly between the two teams as they traded baskets. Just as he did in the previous game, A.J. Green was the first Panther on the scoreboard as he sank a three-pointer within the first 30 seconds. The Ramblers would get a three-pointer of their own less than a minute later. That was the first of 10 made three-pointers by Loyola in the first half, which proved to be the edge they needed to break the stalemate. Another thing that favored Loyola was turnovers, as UNI coughed up the ball seven times in the opening half, which led to a 12-0 points-off-turnover advantage to Loyola. Despite those obstacles, Green kept the Panthers within reach as he converted an additional three shots from behind the arc, giving him a total of 18 points in the half. But try as he might, the team found themselves down 47-35 heading into the locker room at the break.

Both teams shot over 50% from three in the first half, but it was only Loyola that was able to maintain that hot streak into the second half. The Ramblers would start with a 9-0 run within the first four minutes, with Bowen Born being the first Panther to score in the second half as he knocked down a three-pointer of his own. That three-pointer would mark half of UNI’s made shots from beyond in the half, as Born made another only two minutes later.

But besides for Born, UNI would not be able to muster enough offensive power to match Loyola’s, with guard Lucas Williamson leading the team with 18 points. By the time the final buzzer sounded, UNI had only been able to score 28 points to Loyola’s 38, with the final score at 85-58.

Green was only able to get two points from the free-throw line in the half, and Trae Berhow was limited to 10 points total. Noah Carter was able to be the leading rebounder on the team with six.

The Panthers moved back down to second place in the MVC following this loss, with Loyola taking back their spot at the top with a half-game lead. This also marks the fourth straight loss for the Panthers against Loyola.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the Panthers kept the Illinois road swing going as they headed south to Normal to face Illinois State for the second time this season. UNI defeated ISU 79-64 back on Jan. 29 and had won five straight games against the Redbirds.

The Panthers trailed 33-32 at halftime in a closely-fought game from both sides. The second half was much of the same, but UNI managed to edge out a one-point lead with one minute remaining off of a pair of free throws from Noah Carter, going up 71-70. With a chance to take the lead on the last possession, Illinois State’s Josiah Strong missed a pull-up jumper from just outside the paint, which was rebounded by UNI’s Tywhon Pickford, who was then fouled. Pickford missed the first free throw but made the second, and the Panthers closed out the 72-70 win on the road.

The win puts UNI at 15-10 overall and 11-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference with just three games left in the regular season. They will host Missouri State at the McLeod Center at 1 p.m. on Sunday.