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CEDAR FALLS — Having already given ninth-ranked Xavier all it could handle for more than 38 minutes, Northern Iowa looked to be in great position to ratchet up the pressure even further with 1:47 to play Friday.

Xavier’s Naji Marshall had other ideas.

With his team clinging to a 60-57 lead, Marshall made the play off the night, getting a piece of what looked to be an open Wyatt Lohaus layup attempt, a block that sparked a late rally which allowed the Musketeers to pull away for a 77-67 win at the McLeod Center.

“We made some really good plays down the stretch. Maybe none bigger than that one,” Xavier Coach Chris Mack said.

Coming off a timeout, Lohaus said he was pleased with how the play unfolded, saying the outcome was merely a result of Marshall getting into the right spot.

“It was a good look, it was what we wanted,” Lohaus said. “That’s what we wanted to do was get downhill on that. He made a good play coming over and affecting it.”

After shifting the momentum of the game, Marshall proceeded to seal it, throwing down an emphatic dunk off a steal with 1.8 seconds to go.

Aside from the lost points, the block also ended the night for Bennett Koch, by far UNI’s top offensive weapon Friday, who recorded his fifth foul going for the rebound.

The play was a disappointing end to an excellent offensive showing for Koch, who finished with 26 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the floor and 10 of 12 shooting from the line.

No other Panther scored in double figures and the rest of the team combined for just two free throw attempts.

The game came six days after the senior center had a dreadful showing against Iowa State, where he scored just four points while going 2 of 7 from the field.

“I don’t think I played as well as I should have in the last game,” Koch said. “I know having a team like this ... at our home court, I wanted to come out swinging and show them what I’m capable of and I wanted our team to play well and show everyone what our team is capable of.”

With Koch off the floor, the Musketeers were able to close the game out at the foul line, where they were a perfect 8-for-8 in the final 1:47.

Xavier benefited from much better balance on offense. Four different players finished in double figures and they were able to pull away despite Trevon Bluiett, a 20-plus per game scorer, fouling out with 2:25 to play.

Xavier was also much more careful with the ball in the second half, turning it over twice after giving it away 13 times in the opening 20 minutes.

“They weren’t making (bad) plays in the second half,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “If felt like they were just a little more patient as opposed to trying to drive it between us or drive it through us. A good adjustment on their part.”

Despite struggling for much of the night, the Panther offense did catch fire midway through the first half, connecting on six consecutive field goals to open a 22-12 lead.

But that burst was immediately followed by a six-minute scoring drought during which Xavier went on a 13-0 run.

Lohaus and Spencer Haldeman each had nine points off the bench. Tywhon Pickford finished with a team-high five rebounds and four assists.

AT-LARGE CHANCES TAKE A HIT: Despite finishing a rough non-conference slate with an 8-4 mark, a win against a ranked foe would have solidified UNI’s chances at securing an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Panthers, who had an RPI ranking of 39 going into Friday, head into Valley play with two top-100 wins and four top-150 wins, but were 0-4 against teams in the ESPN top-50.

Already dealing with a razor thin margin of error, Jacobson said he was far more interested in preparing his team for the upcoming conference season, rather than trying to focus on things beyond its control.

“At this point with all the non-conference stuff being done, it is what it is,” Jacobson said. “Those numbers are going to be what they’re going to be now. I’m more interested in how we competed in those games, and we competed well in most of them. Now we’ve got to set that aside.”

UNI returns home to face Southern Illinois for the Valley opener next Thursday at 7 p.m.

Xavier 77, UNI 67

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

Jones 16 3-5 3-5 1 0 3 9

Goodin 28 1-4 6-6 4 5 2 8

Bluiett 31 3-7 3-4 7 2 5 12

Gates 29 3-6 2-2 9 1 1 11

Macura 32 6-11 0-0 2 2 1 15

Scruggs 12 1-3 0-0 1 0 2 2

Kanter 17 4-6 0-0 7 0 1 10

Marshall 17 2-2 0-0 1 2 2 4

O’Mara 18 2-4 0-0 1 2 2 4

Team 1

Totals 200 25-48 15-19 34 13 17 77

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

Carlson 37 3-10 0-0 3 2 3 8

Pickford 26 1-5 0-0 5 4 2 2

McCloud 17 2-6 0-0 1 1 2 5

Brown 20 2-6 0-0 3 1 1 6

Koch 23 8-12 10-12 4 0 5 26

Friedman 10 1-1 0-0 3 0 0 2

Rhodes 16 0-2 0-0 1 2 0 0

Haldeman 22 3-6 0-0 2 2 4 9

W. Lohaus 21 3-8 1-2 4 5 3 9

Phyfe 8 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 2

Totals 200 23-57 11-14 28 17 20 67

Xavier 29 48 — 77

UNI 29 38— 67

3-point goals—Xavier 12-23 (Macura 3-6, Bluiett 3-5, Gates 3-5, Kanter 2-2, Marshall 1-1, Goodin 0-2, Scruggs 0-2 ) UNI 10-26 (Haldeman 3-5, Carlson 2-7, Brown 2-5, W. Lohaus 2-3, McCloud 1-3, Pickford 0-2, Rhodes 0-1) Steals—Xavier 8 (Macura 3, Five with 1) UNI 4 (McCloud 2, Koch and Haldeman 1). Blocks — Xavier 3 (Marshall 2), UNI 1 (Koch). Turnovers — Xavier 15, UNI 11.

Officials—Heimerman, Crenshaw, Simmons. Att.—6,355

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