CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa was able to manage a small margin for error and come away with a 74-65 victory over Bradley Wednesday at McLeod Center.
A second-half run fueled by a career night from Wyatt Lohaus revived an uninspired home crowd for the game’s final 12 minutes, and the Panthers (12-13, 4-9 MVC) did their part by holding onto the lead Lohaus gave them.
“To bounce back after Bradley had played well — I think they scored nine of the first 10 possessions — when we got down with the struggles that we’ve had that would have been a good time to fold it up a little bit,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. “Not that I would expect our guys to do that, but after the way things have gone the guys dug in, fought harder and made some plays and got back tied.”
Northern Iowa’s first half looked like a lot of its recent first halves. OK offense coupled with solid defense equaled a 32-30 lead at the break.
A surprising element to an otherwise unordinary half was the absence of Austin Phyfe in the starting lineup. The freshman forward played only two minutes after having dealt with an illness prior to the game. Bennett Koch replaced Phyfe in the starting lineup, however the surprise came when Luke McDonnell — who had appeared in just eight games prior to Wednesday — was the first off Jacobson’s bench.
“Yeah, (Luke) gave us a nice pop,” Jacobson said. “He did that last year where he was able to come in and do some things for us. Especially here at home, he’s a guy the home crowd likes. So his production and getting the crowd into it was important.”
After Bradley (17-9, 7-6) retook the lead early in the second half, the Panthers overcame a 48-42 deficit when Lohaus found his stroke and sparked an 8-0 run to grab a two-point lead with just over 11 minutes remaining.
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“I felt pretty confident coming into this game,” Lohaus said. “I’d say more confident than usual because of the last couple days of practice. I think myself individually, and as a team, we were sharp. Early I got two good looks that both went in so that was definitely a big confidence boost. From then on it was just my teammates finding me and kind of feeling like I had the hot hand, seeing the ball go in.”
Lohaus’ career-high 25 points led all scorers. Klint Carlson and Koch joined him in double-figures with 12 and 11, respectively.
After losing four of its last five games before Wednesday, the Panthers will look to build on this win Saturday when they travel to Des Moines to take on fifth-place Drake.
“I think we played very well against (Drake) the first time,” Koch said. “We’ve struggled on the road, (but) we’ve got confidence now after a win. I think we just need to carry that over and play like we played last time (against Drake).”