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Panther men’s basketball earns NIT berth and matchup at Saint Louis

CEDAR FALLS – UNI men’s basketball will make its second appearance in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in program history as the Panthers visit the Gateway City to take on the Saint Louis University Billikens in the first round this week.

The Panthers (19-11, 14-4 MVC) and Billikens (23-11, 12-6 Atlantic 10) will face off on Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. CT with the game being broadcast on ESPN+. Wednesday’s victor will take on the winner of the BYU-Long Beach State matchup in the second round.

UNI will make its 15th appearance in a national postseason tournament and first since the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The Panthers last made the NIT in 2012, defeating St. Joseph’s (PA) in Philadelphia before coming up short at Drexel in the second round. UNI also made one appearance in the Tournament (CIT) in 2013.

The Panthers qualified for the NIT by virtue of winning the Missouri Valley Conference’s regular season championship in late February. UNI defeated Illinois State in the quarterfinal round of the MVC Tournament in St. Louis before falling to the eventual tournament champions in Loyola-Chicago in the semifinals.

Saint Louis, who earned a 3-seed in this year’s NIT field as an at-large selection for the 20th time in school history, finished fifth in the Atlantic-10 Conference standings before falling to Davidson 84-69 in Saturday’s conference tournament semifinal in Washington, D.C. The Billikens qualified for the NIT in a condensed field of 16 teams last season, falling to Mississippi State in the opening round of play.

The Billikens are led by Third Team All-Atlantic 10 selection and leading scorer Gibson Jimerson, who has recorded 16.2 points per game this season, along with team-highs in field goal percentage (44.6%), three-point shooting (41.3%) and free throw accuracy (82.3%). First Team sophomore guard Yuri Collins has averaged 11.1 points a game and leads the nation with 7.9 assists per game, while forward Francis Okoro leads Saint Louis with 8.0 rebounds a game while notching 10.8 points and 42 total blocks on the season.

Wednesday’s matchup will mark just the sixth all-time meeting between the Panthers and Billikens, the first since February of 1992, and for the first time in postseason play. Saint Louis holds a 3-2 lead in the series having won three straight non-conference matchups between 1986 and 1991.

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