TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Indiana State defeated Northern Iowa, 67-64, Thursday night at Hulman Center, knocking the Panthers back into a tie for the Missouri Valley Conference lead.
UNI is now 11-4 in the MVC (22-5 overall) and tied with Loyola-Chicago for the league lead with three games to play. Bradley and Southern Illinois are a game back at 10-5.
“It’d be better to be three or four games up. We can all add,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said on the Panther Radio Network. “I would love it and so would the guys.
“But not every year are you three (games) to go, and tied for the league lead. So let’s dig in and fight boys. And they will.”
The Panthers were down 17 at halftime, 40-23, and by 21 points with 10:23 to play, 55-34.
UNI went on a 19-4 run. Austin Phyfe drove for a layup to make it 61-60 with 1:41 to play.
The Sycamores (15-11, 8-7) responded, never giving up the lead over the final minutes. Iowa transfer Christian Williams hit two free throws with 6.6 seconds left.
A 3-point try to force overtime by AJ Green in the final seconds fell short.
“It would’ve been darn near a miracle if we pulled it off,” Jacobson said. “It was great to have a chance to win the game.”
It was the second straight loss for the Panthers, both on the road. In both, UNI got out to a slow start. It lost in overtime Saturday to Loyola.
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“You can’t do that at someone’s home court,” UNI senior Isaiah Brown said. “We started off a little too slow.”
Green finished with a game-high 21 points despite breaking his nose five days prior.
“He’s a tough kid,” Brown said. “We knew he was going to play, with the mask or without. He’s a hardworking, super-tough kid with a lot of heart.”
Brown scored 13 points and Phyfe added 12 points. Tywhon Pickford led UNI with 10 rebounds.
Indiana State halted a three-game losing streak, and reversed a 68-60 loss to UNI back on Jan. 7 in Cedar Falls.
Tyreke Key and Jake Laravia each had 18 points to lead Indiana State, which improved to 11-1 at home.
UNI plays Southern Illinois at 1 p.m. Sunday, hosting Senior Day for its second-to-last home game.