116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa kept its chances at a Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball championship alive Wednesday night, defeating Bradley, 78-65.
An ominous first nine minutes by the Braves (12-11, 6-5) ultimately turned into a nightmarish evening as UNI answered a 10-2 deficit to begin the game with a 19-6 run.
“Outside of that four minutes (late), I thought our defense, our communication, our rebounding was as good as it’s been for — let’s call it — 36 minutes,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. “Man, I thought (we) were really good tonight.”
The Braves — who beat the Panthers, 71-69, in their MVC opener on Dec. 1 — got back within one on Connor Hickman’s 3-pointer with 4:14 left in the half. Shortly after, UNI (12-10, 8-3) again found separation with a 10-2 run punctuated by a Noah Carter turnaround floater at the buzzer for a 37-28 halftime lead.
After the break, Carter — who poured in a game-high 19 points — scored UNI’s first eight of the second half. After his outburst, Trae Berhow hit a transition 3 and AJ Green converted a transition layup that ended in a three-point play to push the lead to 14.
“We’re playing as a team. We’re playing great offensive basketball. (Assistant coach Seth) Tuttle’s got us moving around everywhere — flying around on offense,” Berhow said. “If we don’t have one play here, we go right to the next cut-through. We’re just moving. The faster we move, they can’t catch up.”
UNI’s defense ultimately helped push its lead to a game-high 25 with 7:48 remaining as the Panthers forced a share of the Braves’ 18 turnovers while building their biggest lead.
“Our transition defense (was) much better, but really our communication was so much better in this game than it was early December when we were at Bradley,” Jacobson said. “Guys were really tuned in to making sure that we didn’t give up an easy shot in transition. Bowen (Born) nd Tywhon (Pickford) I just felt like those guys did a really good job in the middle-third (of the floor) against their point guards.”
Berhow joined Carter with a game-high 19, while Born scored a season-high 15 and Green added 18.
Antwan Kimmons missed the game because of health and safety protocols, but Jacobson added postgame Kimmons is feeling well and could play against Drake on Saturday.
UNI travels to Des Moines Saturday for a 5 p.m. tipoff at Knapp Center against the Bulldogs (17-6, 8-2).