Panthers stop Beacons, fall to Sycamores

DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

The UNI men’s basketball team was at home in the McLeod Center on Wednesday, Jan. 25, to face the Valparaiso Beacons. They then traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday, Jan. 28, to face the Indiana State Sycamores. After winning their fourth straight home game against the Beacons, 77-66, UNI dropped a tight game on the road to Indiana State, 79-71.

Valparaiso came into the game with UNI with only a 3-7 record in Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play. However, they had won three consecutive games coming into this one. UNI also came in hot, having won six of their last seven games. In the game they played earlier this season at Valparaiso, UNI held on for a 69-67 win.

Early on against Valparaiso, the two teams battled back and forth, with neither team able to lead by more than three points for the first nine minutes of the first half. After Valparaiso tied the game at 17, UNI went on a 13-0 run, sparked by Michael Duax, who had the first five points in that run. The Beacons answered with an 8-2 run, but Bowen Born counter-attacked with a 3-pointer. Born added two more threes, and UNI wound up with a 17-point lead, 45-28, going into halftime.

UNI started the second half with a quick layup from Duax, but Valpo began chipping away at the lead. With just under 10 minutes to go, they had whittled the lead down to five at 55-50. That was as close as the Beacons got. After Valpo again cut the lead to five at 59-54, UNI went on a 9-0 run to extend the lead to fourteen at 68-54. Valpo only got it within single digits once the rest of the game, and UNI won 77-66.

For the first time since February of 2020, all five of UNI’s starters scored in double figures in one game. Born led the Panthers in scoring with 18 points. Tytan Anderson contributed a well-rounded game, scoring 17 points while leading the team in rebounds and assists with 10 and four, respectively, for a double-double. Duax added 15 points and seven rebounds, James Betz contributed 12 points and six rebounds and Trey Campbell had 10 points. This victory also gave Head Coach Ben Jacobson 182 career MVC wins, which ties him with former Creighton and current Oregon coach Dana Altman for the second-most in MVC history.

Indiana State proved to be a difficult matchup on the road. The Sycamores began the MVC slate by winning their first six to rise to the top of the standings. However, they had lost five in a row going into the game with UNI.

Indiana State jumped out to a 7-3 lead early, but the Panthers roared back with an 8-0 run to take an 11-7 lead. UNI got the lead up to as much as eight at 18-10, but the Sycamores eventually raced back to take a 30-29 lead. Indiana State soon extended the lead to six at 39-33, but UNI closed the half on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 39 apiece.

Indiana State opened the half with a three to take a 42-39 lead, but UNI soon regained the lead. A Cole Henry dunk extended the lead to three at 46-43, but the Sycamores soon tied the game on a 3-pointer. UNI’s next lead was 58-57 with 10:54 remaining. The two teams battled back and forth, but the Sycamores soon extended the lead to six. The Panthers were not to be deterred and kept it close. With 1:08 to go, Landon Wolf hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two at 73-71. However, Indiana State nailed six free throws in the final minute, and UNI failed to score again. The Sycamores won 79-71.

Born led the Panthers in scoring and assists with 20 points and four assists. Anderson scored six points and led the team in rebounding with nine. Duax had another good game with 17 points and seven rebounds. Henry was the only other Panther to score in double figures, contributing 10 points.

UNI now sits in third place in the MVC standings with an 8-4 conference record. Belmont and Southern Illinois are ahead with 9-2 records. Just behind the Panthers are Drake and Bradley with 7-4 records. Those two teams are UNI’s next opponents, with UNI traveling to Des Moines to face Drake on Wednesday, Feb. 1, and hosting Bradley on Saturday, Feb. 4. The Drake game will be available to stream on ESPN+, and the Bradley game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.