CEDAR FALLS — Valparaiso cruised past Northern Iowa in a Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball game Saturday night at McLeod Center, 70-57.
After an encouraging first five minutes, UNI (6-14, 4-10 MVC) went cold and wound up shooting just 34 percent from the field and 23 percent from 3-point range in the game while continuing to struggle with its defense.
Valpo (8-13, 5-7), meanwhile, put together a 20-4 run early in the first half to gain a 23-9 lead while the Panthers missed six 3s and committed six of their 13 turnovers.
UNI coach Ben Jacobson said he was most disappointed with his team getting “out-toughed” on their home floor.
“Valpo played better. They played harder. We got out-toughed on our homecourt,” Jacobson said. “I told the guys, you might get beat on your home floor. That can happen every once in a while, but you shouldn’t get out-executed and out-toughed. That was a difficult stretch to watch.”
Valparaiso extended a 12-point halftime advantage, shooting 59 percent in the second half and pushing its lead to as much as 20 at 68-48 with 6:50 remaining. UNI was able to get within nine on Austin Phyfe’s three-point play with 13:34 to play, but Valpo quickly answered with a 12-4 run.
Bowen Born and Trae Berhow led all scorers with 15 points apiece while Austin Phyfe joined the duo in double figures with 14 points and nine rebounds. Born’s 15 all came in the first half and Noah Carter — who had scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games — was held to two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
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“The number of times that we drive it and take off without using the shot-fake — how many times you hear me talk about that?” Jacobson said. “I don’t just say it to you guys. If you don’t think we’re talking about it in film, talking about it with our players — then we go out tonight, we’ve got guys running in there, taking off and getting shots blocked. Some of those plays were hard to watch tonight.”
With only four regular-season games remaining before what’s sure to be a first-round fate for UNI in the MVC tournament, Phyfe didn’t rule out the possibility of a players-only meeting between now and the trip to St. Louis.
“We have our group chat and we all know just positive messages here and there and things like that, but (a players-only meeting) is something that I could definitely see happening here in the next couple of days,” Phyfe said. “Especially with Arch Madness coming up.”
UNI wraps up its two-game series with Valparaiso at 6 p.m. Sunday (ESPN+).