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UNI starts MVC home play with 83-61 win over Evansville

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It's been a challenging two weeks for the UNI Panthers.

The men's team was forced to play without two starters during their trip to Hawaii the week of Christmas and ended up dropping two games. Their next two games were canceled due to COVID issues with their opponents. Then, their women's team had to postpone two games due to their own COVID issues.

You wouldn't have known any of that if you were watching the men's conference home opener Sunday afternoon.

Five Panthers scored in double figures as Cedar Falls product AJ Green led the way with 18. More importantly, the Panthers snapped a two-game losing streak and opened Missouri Valley Conference home play with an 83-61 win over Evansville at the McLeod Center.

UNI (5-7, 1-1) looked fresh for a team that has been battling non-COVID illness and hadn't played in 10 days. They went up by as many as 15 in the first half before the Aces began to fight back. Evansville cut the Panthers' lead to just five with 14 seconds left before halftime. Green sunk a pair of free throws to make it 40-32 entering the break.

Head coach Ben Jacobson must've lit a fire under the Panthers at the half because they were blazing the rest of the way. UNI torched the Aces as they started the second half on a 10-0 run to go up 50-33. Their lead never dipped below double-digits the rest of the way as they cruised to an undefeated start in conference.

"The guys looked like they had a good bounce in their step," said Jacobson. "They had a good energy level to them. I liked the way we defended...I felt like we moved around and got to guys better than we did against Liberty and Wyoming at times. It was a good improvement from those two games."

In addition to Green's 18 points, Trae Berhow contributed 16 points with Noah Carter putting up 15. Nate Heise and Antwan Kimmons each scored 10 for the Panthers.

UNI was picked to finish third in the MVC in the preseason. Though they didn't get off to the start that they'd hoped, they started the strech run of conference play exactly how they needed to on Sunday.

UNI will look to start off 2-0 with a win at home this Wednesday over Valparaiso (8-6, 1-1). That game is slated to begin at 8 p.m.


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