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CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa had an opportunity to follow up its best performance of the season with a win over one of the Missouri Valley Conference’s most experienced teams Saturday night inside the McLeod Center.

It wasn’t meant to be.

Kavion Pippen scored 18 points and made clutch free throws down the stretch as Southern Illinois held off UNI, 58-51, preventing the Panthers from their first 2-0 start in league play since the 2009-10 Sweet 16 season.

A muscular 6-foot-10, 245 pound nephew of NBA great Scottie Pippen, Kavion finished 7 of 10 from the field and made all four of his free throw attempts over the game’s final two minutes.

“When they settle into the half-court and need to have a good possession everyone in the gym knows where it’s going,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said, addressing the Salukis’ senior center. “He’s so big. He’s got the size, he’s got good feet. It’s hard to keep it out of his hands.”

Reflecting on the loss, UNI’s coach recited an eight-minute stretch in the second half during which this game slipped away.

Wyatt Lohaus knocked down UNI’s third 3-pointer in six attempts to start the second half that gave the Panthers a 38-33 lead with 12:44 remaining. Eight minutes later, Southern Illinois was up 48-42 after UNI turned the ball over four times and missed four 3-pointers.

“That hurt us,” Jacobson said. “We were playing good basketball and that stretch of nine or 10 possessions cost us.

“They made plays at both ends. That was a hard-fought game which our games have been with Southern. ... Their defense, it’s been good all year and it was good again tonight. You’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and make a couple of plays.”

Southern Illinois (9-6, 2-0 MVC) received a tongue lashing from its animated coach Barry Hinson after giving up 11 offensive rebounds and not having a guard finish the first half with an assist. The Salukis coach got after his team again in his first timeout of the second half.

“I haven’t got that mad in a long time,” Hinson said. “I called a timeout and got after them again and just challenged them. One of the byproducts of having a veteran team is that when you challenge them, they will respond.”

UNI (6-9, 1-1) missed plenty of looks from distance early and needed those second-chance opportunities to keep the game within two points, 26-24, at intermission.

UNI’s first 12 of 14 field goal attempts were from 3-point range. The Panthers missed all but two of those distance shots as SIU built a lead as large as 20-11 with 8:30 remaining in the first half. The Salukis managed just six points from that point forward as UNI chipped away at the deficit.

Senior guard Miles Wentzien led UNI’s charge on the glass with six offensive rebounds, while Luke McDonnell had four offensive boards before fouling out while guarding Pippen with 2:17 remaining.

It marked the second game to start league play in which UNI’s defense held an opponent under 60 points.

“We’ve just got to be coachable, disciplined and execute every possession,” Wentzien said, addressing his team’s defense. “We have the guys that want to do it and most importantly we’re able to do it.”

AJ Green led UNI with 16 points on 6 of 16 shooting and Trae Berhow added 11. Berhow’s last 3-pointer made it a one-point game with 3:45 remaining and Green cut the deficit to 50-49 with free throws at the 1:54 mark, but a stretch of six misses over the next seven shots allowed SIU to pull away at the line.

“I think, myself included, we could have put a little more pressure on the rim,” Green said. “I need to do a better job of that — don’t settle. We got some decent looks still. We just had to convert a few of them and then we just needed to come up with stops.”

INJURY UPDATE: Biggie Goldman was in a boot Saturday with a lower leg injury. He’ll miss at least the next week. Tywhon Pickford returned from a shoulder injury and played six minutes. Austin Phyfe will officially apply for a medical redshirt.

Southern Ill. 58, UNI 51

Southern Illinois Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Bartley 36 4-8 2-2 4 1 4 13

McGill 38 2-6 2-4 8 2 2 7

Cook 36 4-9 4-6 2 2 1 14

Lloyd 28 1-3 1-2 2 1 0 3

Pippen 22 7-10 4-4 3 0 3 18

Beane 26 0-2 2-2 7 0 2 2

Stradnieks 12 0-1 1-4 2 1 2 1

Gooch 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 5

Totals 200 18-40 16-24 33 7 14 58

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

Green 32 6-16 2-2 0 4 2 16

Wentzien 26 1-4 2-6 10 1 2 4

Berhow 33 3-7 2-2 11 1 3 11

Brown 26 2-7 1-1 3 1 2 6

McDonnell 27 3-5 0-1 7 0 5 7

Pickford 6 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Dahl 11 0-1 1-2 3 0 1 1

Lohaus 25 2-11 0-0 0 1 2 6

Haldeman 14 0-3 0-0 0 0 1 0

Team 0

Totals 200 17-54 8-14 34 8 18 51

Southern Ill. 26 32 — 58

N. Iowa 24 27 — 51

3-point goals — SIU 6-15 (Bartley 3-5, McGill 1-3, Cook 2-4, Beane 0-2, Gooch 0-1), UNI 9-34 (Green 2-9, Wentzien 0-2, Berhow 3-7, Brown 1-4, McDonnell 1-2, Lohaus 2-7, Haldeman 0-3). Blocks — SIU 2 (Cook, Pippen), UNI 1 (McDonnell). Turnovers — SIU 14 (Pippen 4), UNI 12 (Green, Berhow 4). Steals — SIU 9 (McGill 4), UNI 5 (McDonnell 2).

Officials—Smith, Grimshaw, Simmons. Att. — 3,783.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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