Panthers fall to Braves at Arch Madness



Bowen Born (13) finished with a career-high 34 points in UNI’s 72-66 quarterfinal loss to Bradley.

ADAM JOHNSON, Sports Writer

The UNI men’s basketball team competed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this weekend in St. Louis, Mo., and the winner of it all gets the big award of being one of the 68 schools that competes in the NCAA Tournament. A lot was on the line, and although the Panthers came into the conference tournament as the eight-seed, they looked to make some noise. The Panthers started out the tournament against ninth-seeded Illinois State on Thursday, March 2. 

The game against the Redbirds started out in a way that was not too surprising for most Panther fans, as Bowen Born opened things up with a 3-pointer. The game was back-and-forth for the first part of the half, and with just about 10 minutes left, it was all knotted up at 16. The Panthers offense got hot quickly, and they went on a 14-3 run in just over three minutes of play. This gave the Panthers a 30-19 lead, and they would grow it a little bit more before the half came around. At the break, the Panthers held a convincing 44-28 lead. 

The first five minutes of the second half played well for the Panthers, as they had the lead up to 20. However, things started to shift the other way rather quickly. The Redbirds went on a 16-2 run over a nearly seven minute stretch. This put the score at 59-53 Panthers, and it finally looked like this was going to be a battle the rest of the way. The Redbirds kept it within six all the way until there were four minutes left. Born, who had been quiet for some time, hit two huge threes, and a Michael Duax layup put the Panthers up by 12 with just under three minutes remaining. Illinois State gave a bit of a scare in the second half, but the Panthers were able to hold on, winning 75-62. The usual suspects of Born, Duax and Tytan Anderson led the way in the scoring department. Born had 23, Duax finished with 19 and Anderson scored 16.

Following the first round win for the Panthers, they then had to face off with top-seeded Bradley in the quarterfinals. They played the Braves on Friday, March 3. The Braves had beaten the Panthers twice during the regular season, so UNI was going to have to bring their A-game if they wanted to get the win. 

The first half of the game was close, but it was the Braves that were able to maintain a small lead throughout. Bradley got up by as many as nine points in the first half, but they were unable to extend it any further. When the first half came to an end, the Panthers were down 34-28.

Early in the second half the Braves were up by nine, and it looked like they might finally start to pull away from the Panthers. Born had other plans, as he scored 10 straight points for the Panthers, two of the baskets from long range. Born’s quick scoring had the Panthers down by one, 44-43, with 14 minutes left. Following a score from Bradley, Landon Wolf made a three, and the game was tied at 46. Not long after, a free throw from Anderson would give the Panthers their first lead of the game. The Braves took the lead back, but Born remained hot and rattled off six quick points, and the Panthers were ahead 54-52 with nine minutes to play. The end of the game was going back-and-forth, and with a minute and a half left in the game, the Panthers found themselves down by three. Born missed a three with a minute left, and after the Braves made two free throws with 30 seconds remaining, the game was out of reach. Born finished the game with a career-high 34 points, scoring a spectacular 29 in the second half alone, but the Panthers fell just short, 72-66.

With the loss, the UNI men’s basketball season has more than likely come to an end. This year was very much one of learning and growth for a UNI team that had just one upperclassmen in their starting lineup. Assuming the key players stick around for next season, and factoring in the very strong recruiting class that will be freshman next year, UNI has plenty of reasons to be excited about their future in men’s basketball.