NORMAL, Ill. – The University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team whittled a 13-point deficit to one in the final two minutes on the road against Illinois State, but the Redbirds hung on for a 65-61 victory over the Panthers in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both squads.
The Panthers (10-3 overall, 0-1 MVC) trailed 59-46 with 5:56 left in the game but rallied to cut trim the margin to one on a bucket by Johnny Moran with 1:57 remaining in the contest. UNI had a chance to take the lead on a jumper in the lane from junior guard Anthony James but the shot missed and the Redbirds’ Anthony Cousin hit two free throws.
UNI had a chance to tie the game with 50 seconds left on a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Chip Rank but the 3-pointer also missed and the Redbirds’ Cousin hit two more free throws to up the margin to five at 63-58.
Rank buried a 3-pointer with 9.6 seconds left to cut the margin in half at 64-61. But ISU’s Nic Moore made a free throw with 6.8 left to ice the game for the Redbirds.
UNI was led in scoring by junior guard Anthony James with 21 points. Sophomore forward Chip Rank also reached double-figure scoring with 11 points off the bench.
UNI will return home to take on the Evansville Purple Aces on Sunday in the McLeod Center. Tip is set for 8 p.m. with the game being broadcast live on ESPNU.
NOTES: The game was tied 28-28 at the half … the Redbirds snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Panthers … UNI attempted two free throws in the game (both makes from Seth Tuttle), while Illinois State made 10-of-16 from the foul line.