Despite closing the Missouri Valley Conference regular season with a pair of losses, the UNI Panther men’s basketball team avoids playing a Thursday night opening round game in the MVC tournament, thanks to a tie-breaker.
UNI qualified for the tournament quarterfinals as the sixth seed after a 9-9 conference record landed the Panthers in a three-way tie for fifth place. Bradley was awarded the #5 seed via a head-to-head tiebreaker. The Braves had a 3-1 record in the pool of tied teams (Bradley-Illinois State-UNI). UNI was 2-2 in that pool, and Illinois State was 1-3 — giving the Panthers the No. 6 seed and the Redbirds the No. 7 spot.
As a result, UNI will meet #3 seeded Southern Illinois on Friday night at 8:30. The Salukis took both games against the Panthers during the regular season: the first contest by seven points at the McLeod Center and the second by eight points in Carbondale less than three weeks later.
UNI came within a few inches of dramatically altering the landscape of the MVC tournament on Wednesday night during the final home game in Cedar Falls. A.J. Green’s jumper from the left elbow just before the buzzer rimmed away, and top-seeded Loyola escaped the McLeod Center with a 56-55 victory.
UNI trailed by nine at halftime, and the Panther’s rally was slow in developing out of the break. However, the Panthers took the lead with 8:46 remaining in the half thanks to several clutch baskets by Green and a Spencer Haldeman three-pointer which swung UNI in front. The Panthers held the lead for just over four minutes before Loyola inched back ahead, then held on, thanks to timely rebounding. Green cut the Saluki lead to one with nine seconds to go before UNI got the ball back for their final shot as the result of a Rambler traveling violation on the inbounding play which followed.
Green finished with 18 points, going 7-for-12 from the field and making four three-pointers. Isaiah Brown registered 13 points.
Wednesday’s close finish was not repeated Saturday on the road. UNI fell behind early as the result of five turnovers in the opening minutes at Indiana State, eventually dropping the season finale 71-54 against the Sycamores.
The Panthers ended the first half with eleven turnovers and trailed the Indiana State 35-19 at halftime.
Spencer Haldeman led the Panthers’ scoring effort, finishing with 16 points Green ended with 10.
The loss dropped UNI to 14-17 during the regular season.