Villanova ends Panthers’ five game win streak

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The UNI men’s basketball team went on a five game win streak, including two big games at the Battle of Atlantis tournament over Thanksgiving break. After their 73-45 victory over Alcorn State on Nov. 13, the Panthers found their groove on the court as they took on the Wartburg Knights on Nov. 15.

The division three Knights could not keep up with the Panthers’ offense. The Panthers shot 60 percent from the three point line, going 15 for 23 as a team. Bennett Koch had an outstanding game and scored a career high 25 points on top of going eight for eight from the field.

Freshman Tywon Pickford had a great night, almost reaching a double with nine points and 13 rebounds. At the end of the contest, UNI would outscore Wartburg 72-43.

After their victory against Wartburg, the Panthers looked to continue their streak in their next game against Chicago State. UNI has been showing an outstanding defense this year, holding their last three opponents to under 45 points. The Panthers offense has also found recent success. From the start of this game, UNI jumped out to a 15-1 run in the first half and never looked back. At halftime the Panthers led 46-21. Koch had another great game, scoring 21 points, going seven for nine from the field. Pickford reached a career high of 14 rebounds, just one rebound short of tying the UNI Men’s basketball record of 15 rebounds. Pickford ended the game with nine points, 14 rebounds, two steals, two blocks and two assists.  

Juwan Mccloud also had a career high scoring night with 18 points. Transfer Miles Wentzein scored his first division one, double digit game with 11 points. The Panthers would knock off Chicago State by a large margin 82-44.

After their three-game win streak at home, the Panthers took a road trip to the Bahamas for the “Bad Boy Mowers” Battle of Atlantis Tournament.  In the first round, the Panthers faced off against Southern Methodist University (SMU). The Panthers came out hot from the three point range, making the first six of 10 three pointers. Off the bench, Spencer Haldeman would score four three-pointers to spark a 21- 2 run in the first half.

At the end of the first, the Panthers led 31-23 over SMU. After a big first half by the Panthers, the Mustangs would only slim the lead to single digits before the end of the contest. Four Panthers finished with double digits in the first round game. Haldeman ended with 15 points, Koch had 12 points, Pickford had 11 and McCloud had 10. The final score was 61-58.

The Panthers moved on to play North Carolina state in the second round. Tywon Pickford carried the Panthers on offense in the second round matchup against North Carolina State. Pickford would record 18 points and 18 rebounds in 37 minutes of play. Koch and McCloud ended with 16 points from the field. Sophomore Isaiah Brown would add 10 points and a pair of key free throws to put the Wolf Pack away. The Panthers would win a close one, 64-60, and move on to the championship game versus top ranked Villanova.

Villanova is arguably the best team in the tournament, ranking fourth in the AP top 10. In the championship game, Villanova took control and maintained the lead the whole game. UNI could not find their rhythm from the three-point range, only scoring six of 21 from deep. The Panthers did not go to the free throw line at all versus Villanova. Offense was absent for the Panthers, only shooting 41 percent from field goal range but did lead both teams in rebound totals. At the end of contest, Villanova would run away with the lead 64-50.

The Panthers did well in the tournament overall and look ahead to host the Missouri Valley Mountain West Challenge before heading to Des Moines in the Hy-Vee Classic where they will take on in-state rival Iowa State on Dec. 16.