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PEORIA, Ill. — A clean slate and new year has brought out the best in a University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team determined to take advantage of a fresh start.

Purple jerseys swarmed throughout the defensive half of court, and UNI locked down Bradley for an inspired 65-47 victory inside Peoria’s Carver Arena as the curtain opened on Missouri Valley Conference play Wednesday night.

UNI (6-8, 1-0 MVC) has already checked a road victory off its list after it took until the final road trip to secure a league win away from the McLeod Center a season ago.

“I thought our determination over the course of the 40 minutes was the best that it’s been this year,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “That has to start with guys individually to have that collective effort.”

Isaiah Brown and Miles Wentzien set the tone for UNI’s defense as primary defenders on Bradley’s top scorer, Darrell Brown, who entered the game averaging 15.1 points. The shifty guard was held scoreless in the first half and finished 1 of 7 from the field for two points — marking the first time he had been held below 10 points all season.

“I tried to lock him up as best I could and I felt like I did a good job of it tonight,” Isaiah Brown said. “I could tell from the jump that we were engaged. We got out to a great start which we haven’t done much this year, so I knew we were ready to play.”

Isaiah Brown’s defense transferred into confidence on offense. He matched Trae Berhow with a game-high 14 points and point guard AJ Green added 10 within a balanced attack.

Still, UNI’s suffocating defense was the story on this night. The Panthers showcased fluid rotations and often quickly stopped dribble penetration. Bradley was held to 18 of 48 (37.5 percent shooting).

“It starts with Isaiah,” Berhow said. “We run off his energy. When we saw him going as hard as he can possibly go, it makes us go as hard as we can go.”

UNI’s inexperienced frontcourt players also more than held their own against a veteran Bradley team (8-6, 0-1) that entered the season among the MVC’s top four favorites.

Center Luke McDonnell gave UNI an early spark and finished with four offensive rebounds, eight points and a pair of key assists before picking up a fourth foul with 16:08 remaining. In his place stepped 7-footer Justin Dahl.

A match-up sub who hasn’t seen main rotation minutes, Dahl scored twice to ignite a stretch over the final 4 minutes, 56 seconds of the first half in which UNI outscored the Braves 14-4 to take a 34-24 halftime lead. Dahl finished with a team-high eight rebounds and often denied Bradley’s strong frontcourt options extra opportunities in the second half.

“We’ve just all got to play harder, tougher and smarter, and a lot more together than we did tonight,” Bradley coach Brian Wardle lamented after his team trailed by double digits throughout final 21 minutes.

Dahl was among those who brought toughness to the court for a UNI team that held a 34-28 rebounding advantage.

“We were planning to play Justin either way because of the two big guys Bradley has,” Jacobson said. “For not having played, give the young guy a ton of credit. He had a heck of a game tonight.”

Jacobson also mentioned two other key players on offense were his veteran guards Wyatt Lohaus and Spencer Haldeman. They each knocked down key shots during the late first half surge. Lohaus finished the game with bandage under his right eye after taking a sharp elbow for a charge on defense during an opening half in which UNI survived droughts of six and three minutes.

After a 4-for-18 start from the field, the Panthers made 21 of 42 shots over the remainder of the game with 17 assists leading to 25 field goals. Berhow benefited from the ball movement, hitting four of his six attempts from 3-point range for a team that knocked down 10 3-pointers.

“We stuck together,” Berhow said. “That’s the one big thing. Coach was been preaching it, preaching it, preaching it.

“Stick together, work together and win this game together. We kept the talk up. It didn’t go down. We made this court our home court with our voices and our communication tonight.”

PICKFORD INJURED: In addition to Berhow and McDonnell picking up quick fourth fouls in the second half, UNI played without a starter. Isaiah Brown re-entered the starting lineup in place of sophomore guard Tywhon Pickford who has been battling shoulder soreness over the past two weeks. Jacobson said Pickford’s status for Saturday’s MVC home opener against Southern Illinois is unknown at this time.

UNI 65, Bradley 47

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

McDonnell 15 3-5 2-2 5 2 4 8

Green 31 3-10 3-3 2 4 1 10

Wentzien 25 2-4 0-0 1 4 0 5

Berhow 30 5-10 0-0 7 1 4 14

Brown 31 6-12 0-0 5 1 1 14

Dahl 21 3-3 0-0 8 2 1 6

Goldman 6 0-3 0-0 1 0 1 0

Lohaus 23 1-3 0-2 3 0 0 3

Haldeman 18 2-6 0-0 0 3 0 5

Team 2

Totals 200 25-56 5-7 34 17 12 65

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

Childs 32 4-7 2-2 3 1 1 12

Bar 17 3-6 2-2 2 1 2 8

Pittman 13 0-3 1-2 0 0 1 1

Brown 31 1-7 0-0 2 3 1 2

Lautier-Ogunleye 18 0-1 0-0 3 2 2 0

Boya 13 1-2 1-2 2 0 2 3

Lundy 9 1-2 0-0 2 0 0 2

Brummett 18 0-6 0-0 3 3 0 0

van Bree 16 3-4 0-0 8 1 0 6

Hanley 3 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 2

Kennell 30 4-9 0-0 2 1 1 11

Team 1

Totals 200 18-48 6-8 28 12 10 47

UNI 34 31 — 65

Bradley 24 23 — 47

3-point goals—UNI 10-22 (Green 1-4, Wentzien 1-1, Berhow 4-6, Brown 2-4, Goldman 0-2, Lohaus 1-2, Haldeman 1-3), Bradley 5-17 (Childs 2-3, Pittman 0-2, Lautier-Ogunleye 0-1, Lundy 0-1, Brummett 0-3, Kennell 3-7). Blocks—UNI 2 (Brown, Dahl), Bradley 3 (three at 1). Turnovers—UNI 7 (three at 2), Bradley 12 (Boya 3). Steals—UNI 7 (McDonnell, Dahl 2), Bradley 4 (four at 1).

Officials—Pollard, Janssen, Ferrie. Att.—5,252.

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