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NORMAL, Ill. — AJ Green knew the foul was coming.

The court awareness of Northern Iowa’s freshman guard nearly turned into a miraculous play in the waning seconds of Tuesday night’s 70-69 loss at Illinois State’s Redbird Arena.

Green’s potential game-tying heave from just inside the Redbird logo bounced off the inside of the back rim as he was fouled with 2.2 seconds remaining. The 86-percent free throw shooter then missed his first attempt from the line before making the final two. His baseball-style throw from Illinois State’s free throw line after a missed a foul shot was off target to set the final score.

“UNI played great down the stretch there,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said after the Panthers went on a seven-point run that cut a nine-point deficit to two with 18 seconds remaining. “They made plays. I thought Green’s 3 when he got fouled, I thought that was going in.”

Green finished with 19 points. He sparked the late run for UNI (6-10, 1-2 Missouri Valley Conference) with a 3-pointer before Spencer Haldeman added a pull-up jumper. Green then crossed-over Keyshawn Evans to pull the Panthers within two at the 18-second mark and added a turnaround jumper to make it a two-point game against with 7.2 to play.

After Illinois State (9-7, 2-1) extended its lead to three on a Matt Hein free throw, Green became aware he’d have an opportunity to tie the game at the line.

“I heard their coach say foul once they get across half court,” Green said. “I kind of knew what was coming. When I threw it up, I thought it might have a chance to go in.”

Milik Yarbrough and his first-team preseason all-conference teammate Phil Fayne led the Redbirds with 23 and 19 points, respectively, helping the hosts turn a 33-32 halftime deficit into a 47-37 lead with 13:56 remaining.

“They made some very good plays to beat the double-team,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “When we did mix it up and play them one-on-one, they took advantage of it. Both of those guys were terrific.”

The biggest blow UNI suffered came on the third possession of the second half when Miles Wentzien went down with a severe left knee injury. Preliminary prognosis from trainer Don Bishop is a torn ACL.

“Not only has he earned his way into the starting lineup and earned his way into minutes, but he’s played well,” Jacobson said. “Not having him available may have had an impact.”

Wentzien’s injury came after UNI’s Tywhon Pickford put together his best half of basketball within his injury-plagued season. Pickford reached his season-high eight points by halftime and finished with 11 to go with a season-high four assists.

“It was great being out there with my team and being able to help for a better cause,” said Pickford, who also turned his focus to Wentzien. “He’s been on me to push me to get in and do extra work and get back to help the team.”

Playing with heavy hearts, UNI rallied from down 10 and cut its deficit to two with 5:21 remaining. The Panthers then added a second run after Fayne’s layup pushed Illinois State’s lead back to nine with 3:27 left.

Wyatt Lohaus matched Pickford with 11 points and Haldeman scored all seven of his points during the second-half comebacks.

“It just showed we didn’t give up,” Green said. “We’re never going to give up. We’re a team that’s always going to battle. I know coming off this loss everybody is going to be back in the gym working harder than ever just so we can get back on a win streak."

Illinois St. 70, UNI 69

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

McDonnell 20 3-7 0-0 4 1 3 6

Green 30 7-15 2-3 3- 0 2 19

Wentzien 13 1-3 0-0 4 0 0 2

Berhow 19 2-5 2-2 3 1 5 7

Brown 38 2-7 2-2 10 3 1 6

Pickford 25 4-6 2-3 5 4 3 11

Dahl 13 0-0 0-0 1 3 1 0

Lohaus 28 3-7 2-2 2 0 0 11

Haldeman 14 3-6 0-0 1 1 1 7

Team 1

Totals 200 25-56 10-12 34 13 16 69

Illinois St. Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Fayne 32 8-10 3-5 7 1 1 19

Copeland 32 3-9 0-0 1 4 1 8

Evans 28 1-8 0-0 1 0 5 3

Chastain 31 5-8 0-1 4 3 1 12

Yarbrough 9-12 4-5 8 3 3 23

Hein 0-2 1-2 1 2 2 1

Idowu 7 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 2

Team 2

Totals 200 28-54 8-13 27 15 14 70

UNI 33 36— 69

Illinois St. 32 38 — 70

3-point goals—UNI 9-21 (Green 3-7, Wentzien 0-1, Berhow 1-3, Brown 0-2, Pickford 1-1, Lohaus 3-4, Haldeman 1-3), ISU 6-22 (Copeland 2-6, Evans 1-7, Chastain 2-3, Yarbrough 1-2, Hein 0-1, Jefferson 0-3).Blocks—UNI 3 (Brown 2), ISU 2 (Fayne, Yarbrough). Turnovers—UNI 14 (Green 5), ISU 11 (Yarbrough 5). Steals—UNI 5 (Pickford 2), ISU 8 (Fayne 3).

Officials—Heimerman, Petty, Malham. Att.—4,107.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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