CEDAR FALLS — While time is winding down on an opportunity to make a late-season push, the clock turned into the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team’s ally Tuesday night inside the McLeod Center.

UNI and Evansville traded lengthy possessions, often pushing the shot clock to the buzzer in a basketball game that became a test of patience. Remaining engaged on defense, the Panthers milked enough clock to prevent a 15-point second half lead from completely evaporating during a 47-41 victory.

UNI (13-14, 5-10 Missouri Valley) earned back-to-back home wins and snapped a skid of four losses in its previous five games despite not making a field goal over the final 10 minutes, 16 seconds.

Illustrating the snail’s pace this game was played at, UNI attempted just 10 shots during that drought with three possessions ending in turnovers and four resulting in trips to the free throw line. Forwards Bennett Koch and Klint Carlson were visibly frustrated as their hook shots in the paint refused to fall.

“The thing that I liked is we stayed aggressive,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “I thought our determination and purpose was good. We got it inside to Bennett and Klint, and they were shooting shots inside the lane that just rolled off the rim.

“Our execution and purpose and understanding of what we wanted to do was good, we just came up empty on some good possessions.”

Jacobson altered his defense by switching screens off the ball in an attempt to slow down MVC scoring leader Ryan Taylor, who needed just 17 shots to record 25 points during the Purple Aces’ 57-49 win over UNI on Jan. 31 in Evansville.

Taylor took 23 shots to reach a game-high 26 points in this contest, but none of his teammates scored more than five. After Taylor’s fourth 3-pointer cut Evansville’s deficit to two points with 2:08 remaining, the Purple Aces came up empty on their final five possessions with a timely trap in the waning seconds punctuating this UNI victory.

“In practice yesterday we were switching screens because on offense they like to run him (Taylor) off those curls and he gets those shots right around the free throw area,” said Tywhon Pickford, who finished with 10 rebounds to lead a UNI team that held a 41-33 edge on the glass. “Communication was key because of the slips they could have had off that, and they have multiple screens coming back-to-back. Great communication was key to our defense.”

While UNI’s offensive stalled down the stretch, junior college transfer Hunter Rhodes made the most out of his first career start at point guard in place of an injured Juwan McCloud (sore back).

Rhodes, who finished with a team-high 12 points, knocked down an open 3-pointer on the Panthers’ first possession. He blew by Evansville’s defenders for UNI’s final field goal that gave the Panthers a 42-27 lead at the 10:16 mark.

“I felt pretty comfortable doing it, coming from JUCO the past couple years starting,” said Rhodes, who found out he would be making his first Division I start during Tuesday’s shootaround. “It felt good and I just tried to take the most advantage of it as I could.”

Evansville used a seven-point run to take a brief lead late in the first half before UNI regained its edge for good with a 10-0 run prior to intermission. Carlson, who finished with nine points, was a key catalyst during that surge, knocking down a jumper off a shot fake and later driving the court and scoring on a floater in the lane that beat the halftime buzzer.

While UNI’s lead came close to slipping away, Rhodes says his team kept its cool.

“We didn’t too riled up with what was going on,” Rhodes acknowledged. “I felt confident the whole time that we were going to win the game. I just had that feeling. I think the whole group did. We were getting some pretty good looks on the offensive end, but we just couldn’t get anything to fall.”

MCCLOUD BATTLING BACK: Jacobson confirmed after Tuesday's game that McCloud has been playing with soreness in his back over the past two weeks. He was noticeably in pain running sprints at Monday's practice, and it was decided Tuesday morning that the point guard would receive the night off.

Wednesday is a mandatory off day for UNI and Jacobson is hoping McCloud's back is loosened up and he's closer to 100 percent by Thursday's practice.

UNI 47, Evansville 41

Evansville Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Taylor 39 11-23 0-0 3 1 1 26

Chatkevicius 11 1-1 0-0 3 0 3 2

Riley 30 0-4 0-0 5 2 3 0

Hall 21 1-4 0-0 3 1 1 2

Simmons 36 1-5 0-0 12 2 2 2

Kuhlman 23 2-3 0-0 2 0 3 5

Traore 14 0-1 0-0 3 0 3 0

Frederking 26 2-8 0-0 1 1 2 4

Team 1

Totals 200 18-49 0-0 33 7 18 41


Carlson 33 3-7 2-4 7 3 1 9

Pickford 28 1-8 2-2 10 1 0 4

Rhodes 34 4-9 2-2 2 1 1 12

Brown 20 0-4 0-0 2 1 0 0

Koch 30 4-13 2-4 9 0 0 10

Friedman 6 0-0 0-0 0 0 2 0

Haldeman 9 0-4 0-0 0 1 0 0

Lohaus 30 2-7 0-0 2 1 4 6

Phyfe 10 1-2 4-6 3 1 1 6

Team 5

Totals 200 15-54 12-19 41 9 9 47

Evansville 23 18 — 41

N. Iowa 30 17 — 47

3-point goals—Evansville 5-17 (Taylor 4-9, Simmons 0-3, Kuhlman 1-2, Frederking 0-3), UNI 5-22 (Carlson 1-2, Pickford 0-3, Rhodes 2-7, Brown 0-2, Haldeman 0-3, Lohaus 2-5). Blocks—Evansville 5 (Chatkevicius 2), UNI 3 (Friedman 2). Turnovers—Evansville 11 (Riley 3), UNI 6 (Brown, Lohaus 2). Steals—Evansville 2 (Riley 2), UNI 3 (three at 1).

Officials—Maxwell, Eades, Hartness. Att.—3,346.


Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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