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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Panthers bash on Bears in McLeod Center

Nate Heise rises up for an incredible shot. Heise led the Panthers with 17 points.

The UNI men’s basketball team bounced back with a 72-65 win over Missouri State Wednesday night. The victory over the Bears ended the Panthers’ three-game losing streak, with the most recent being a devastating loss to Murray State last Saturday. Meanwhile, the loss for the Bears concluded their four-game winning streak, as they now sit just behind the Panthers in the conference standings. The Panthers now sit at 13-11 (7-6 in MVC) and are ranked fifth in the conference one month ahead of the Missouri Valley tournament. 

Panther Junior Nate Heise dominated the floor last night as the team’s leading score with 17 points, followed by Jacob Hutson with 14. Hutson and Tytan Anderson were effective in controlling the paint, combining for a total of 15 rebounds. Defensively, the Panthers put up a clinic with nine team steals as well as eight blocked shots. Freshman Kyle Pock led the team in steals with three, while Hutson led the team with three blocked shots. 

After winning the tip-off, the Panthers fell to the early momentum of Missouri State, trailing 5-13 with 13:49 to play in the first half. Over the next two minutes, Anderson would drop a 3-pointer that would spearhead a 7-0 run, giving the momentum back to the Panthers. From there until halftime, it was a boxing match with both sides trading shots and trying to find an edge over the other. Going into the intermission, the Bears led the Panthers 32-30.

Coming out of the locker room, the Panthers started hot in the second half, going on an immediate 8-0 run which was highlighted by an Anderson to Heise dunk that ignited the crowd. The Bears still had life in them though, as they would claw their way back to tie it up at 44 with 12 minutes left in the game. Perhaps it was too much for them though, as after the Panthers regained the lead with a free throw from Heise, they took advantage of a physically exhausted Missouri State and didn’t lose the lead for the remainder of the game.

“We knew how we had to play today,” Hutson said after the game. “It’s about how teams respond.”

After a hard 43-71 loss for the Panthers against Murray State on Saturday, the team was faced with a gut check going into Wednesday night’s contest. 

“Some teams will just break and go on a bigger losing streak after losing by 30,” Hutson said. “But we responded well with, what (Trey Campbell) said, our hard days at practice.” 

Playing against a rebounding-heavy team like Missouri State, the Panthers had to be prepared for a fight.

“We knew we had to be a more physical team and that’s what we did in the second half,” Hutson said. 

It was prevalent to the fans that the energy levels in the Panthers stayed high the whole game, unlike the Bears, which seemed to fall off late in the second half. It was perhaps this difference that allowed the Panthers to pull ahead and close out the victory.

“Tonight it fell much more as a group,” head coach Ben Jacobson said. “It matters that everyone is playing at a very high level.” 

Jacobson emphasized the confidence he saw in the Panthers tonight in their teammates, such as defending their opponents and the collective “group toughness.”

“The physicality of (Hutson) and (Anderson) really getting to the glass … was probably the thing that helped us the most.” 

Going into the contest, the Bears led the MVC in defensive rebounds, so the Panthers knew going into the game they would have to be successful on the boards.

As a highly experienced basketball player and coach, Jacobson was able to identify a player he believed made a bigger impact on the game than what the stats and fans saw, which to him was Junior forward Tytan Anderson.

“The (play) that set the tone was when he came from all the way across the floor … and got that offensive rebound. It’s one offensive rebound … but it sets the tone for his teammates.” 

Playing over 29 minutes for the Panthers, Anderson played a big role in making high-effort plays and crucial rebounds, which is why coach Jacobson accredited him as a big difference-maker Wednesday night.

The Panthers will be back in action Sunday in Chicago with a game against UIC, hoping to build on their momentum as they finish the last month of conference matchups. After a few games on the road, UNI will be back in McLeod against Bradley on Feb. 18.

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