CEDAR FALLS – UNI men’s basketball faced another tough Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) challenge on Saturday night, falling to in-state rival Drake 82-74 in overtime at the McLeod Center.
The Panthers fall to 9-9 and 5-3 in league play, while the Bulldogs improve to 14-6 and 5-2 in conference action.
UNI’s offense clicked into gear after a slow start in the opening minutes, pulling ahead by 6 points midway through the first half against a stout Drake offense. The Bulldogs crawled back and took a two-point lead with just over 5 minutes to go before halftime before the Panthers closed the period out on a 17-8 run, fueled by 10 points from AJ Green in the first 20 minutes. UNI entered the halftime break with a 41-34 lead.
The Panthers maintained a healthy lead throughout much of the second half, but only shot 38.9% from the floor after shooting 50% from the field in the opening half. UNI was held to just 7 second half field goals as Drake’s defense totaled 6 total blocks on the night, including 4 from Tremell Murphy. The Bulldogs closed the gap and tied the game with 7 seconds remaining on a Roman Penn layup to force overtime. UNI’s struggles continued in extra time as Drake completed 10 free throw attempts to the Panthers’ two as UNI dropped the tightly contested game by 8 points.
Green finished the night for the Panthers with a game-high 27 points and 9 rebounds, shooting 5-for-11 from beyond the arc and sinking 10-of-11 free throws. Nate Heise and Tywhon Pickford each scored 8 points for UNI, with Pickford pulling down 8 rebounds. Antwan Kimmons and Austin Phyfe both notched 7 points in the loss, as Noah Carter, Trae Berhow, and Bowen Born all posted 5 points each.
Drake has now won the last 4 consecutive meetings against the Panthers, their longest winning streak against UNI since winning 4 in a row from 2006-08.
Saturday’s game marked the first contest this season where Noah Carter did not score at least 15 points in a conference game.
Saturday’s matchup marked the first time since the 1995-96 season, and fourth time in program history that the Panthers played in consecutive games that ended in overtime. UNI lost at home to Missouri State 67-64 in overtime before defeating Creighton on the road the following game, 58-57.
UNI’s loss marks the first time the Panthers have lost consecutive games in overtime since the 1978-79 season, when falling to Armstrong State and Biscayne in back-to-back games.
The Panthers are 6-2 this season when leading with 5 minutes to play in regulation, and when leading at halftime.
Drake outrebounded UNI 42-34, including 12-7 on offensive boards. The Panthers are 9-4 this season when being outrebounded by the opponent.
After his 27-point performance against the Bulldogs, AJ Green is just 3 points from becoming the 7th member of UNI’s 1,500 career point club.
Austin Phyfe is 43 points from passing his father Steve Phyfe (1987-90) on UNI’s all-time scoring list. Steve, who played on UNI’s first ever NCAA Tournament team in 1990, scored 872 career points for the Panthers.
The Panthers return to action on Jan. 26 on the road against the Evansville Purple Aces. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT at the Ford Center.