CEDAR FALLS — A group effort pushed Northern Iowa men’s basketball past Indiana State, 68-60, Tuesday night at McLeod Center.
With a two-point lead and 1:47 to play, AJ Green — coming off a career-best 35-point performance against Bradley on Saturday — came up big defensively, stealing the ball from Jordan Barnes.
After a timeout, Trae Berhow — who scored a game-high 16 points — had his driving layup goaltended by Indiana State’s Tre Williams, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 62-58 with just over a minute to play.
Tyreke Key’s jumper rattled out and after Green missed a jumper with 33 seconds to play, Austin Phyfe — who had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds — grabbed a game-clinching offensive rebound, his seventh of the game.
“They all count the same, but I feel a lot better tonight than I did Saturday night in terms of our defense and not fouling. And then that big stretch in the second half when the three freshmen were in there,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “I just like how we defended, and defended without fouling.”
UNI’s win against the Sycamores came in unusual fashion. The Panthers made only three of their 15 3-point attempts.
“Tonight the (shots) weren’t falling as much and we found other ways to score,” Green said. “Trae did a great job attacking some closeouts. Antwan (Kimmons) got downhill a few times when they pressured him. Phyfe was scoring down low.”
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Along with Phyfe’s rebounding success, UNI (13-2, 2-1) combined to out-rebound Indiana State (8-6, 1-2) 33-20 and make more free throws (13) than the Sycamores attempted (10).
“Coach talked about (how) we made three 3s this game and we’re usually around that nine mark, so just knowing that our shots aren’t going to be falling every night but it can work out for us — so just keep doing what we do,” Phyfe said.
The Panthers’ ability to hold off the Sycamores — who never trailed by more than nine — came in part from an important five-minute stretch in the second half when Jacobson had all three of his freshmen in the lineup.
Kimmons, Noah Carter and James Betz checked in at the 14:26 mark with UNI leading 35-34, and checked out nearly five minutes later leading 44-42 while combining to score 10 points.
“That may have been the game right there,” Jacobson said. “Because we were stuck a little bit. Antwan of course gives us that guy — as we saw against West Virginia, against South Carolina (and) we’ve seen it a little bit other places — that can blow by and get to the rim. Noah’s ability to score the ball is important. And then James got behind them and got that little lob (on) the roll.”
UNI travels to Missouri State (8-8, 2-1) Saturday for a 3 p.m. tip (ESPN+).
Jacobson said postgame that Spencer Haldeman (ankle), who’s missed the last two games, has a chance of returning Saturday against the Bears.