UNI men’s basketball hosts Illinois State in Hope Always game

UNI men’s basketball vs. Illinois State

  • 1 pm CT | Jan. 29
  • Cedar Falls, Iowa | McLeod Center (6,650)
  • Panther Sports Network / ESPN+ (Eric Braley: Play-by-Play / Kevin Lehman: Analyst)
  • 1540 KXEL: Panther Sports Radio Network (Gary Rima: Play-by-Play / Kevin Boyle: Analyst)

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — UNI men’s basketball returns home on Saturday afternoon to the McLeod Center, playing host to the Redbirds of Illinois State University at 1 pm The Panthers will be celebrating their annual Hope Always game to raise awareness in the fight against cancer. Spectators are encouraged to wear pink.

UNI enters Saturday’s matchup following a 64-59 win on the road at Evansville on Wednesday night, where the Panthers held off a second half rally by the Purple Aces to complete the regular season sweep. The Panthers led by as many as 15 points before Evansville cut the UNI lead down to 3 points with just over 2 minutes to play in regulation. Outrebounding the Purple Aces 33-23 and hitting 14-of-16 free throws, UNI was able to slow down the Evansville offense in the closing minutes to preserve the 5-point victory. AJ Green, led the Panthers with 18 points in the win, highlighted by his 1,500th career point scored to become just the 7th player in program history to reach that milestone. Nate Heise recorded 12 points and 7 rebounds in the victory, with Trae Berhow and Noah Carter each scoring 9 points. Bowen Born also scored 8 points for UNI off the bench.

Illinois State visits Cedar Falls for the first time since February 2020 coming off an 89-88 overtime loss to Drake on Wednesday at home. Under the leadership of 10th year head coach Dan Muller, the Redbirds sit in 7th in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings with a 3-5 league record after being picked 10th in this season’s preseason poll. With the league’s second-highest scoring offense at 78.7 points per game, Illinois State brings a high-powered lineup to the floor, as well as a defensive unit that leads the conference in blocked shots per game (5.8) and 3rd in steals per game (6.8).

Junior guard Antonio Reeves leads the way for Illinois State averaging 20.5 points per game this season, ranking 2nd in the league behind Missouri State’s Isiaih Mosley and just head of UNI’s AJ Green. Reeves has recorded 12 games of 20+ points this season, scoring 25 for the Redbirds in his last outing against Drake. With leading rebounder Sy Chatman out with a season-ending injury, Illinois State turns to Kendall Lewis as a key rebounder. Lewis has posted 9.9 points a game and 5.5 rebounds in 21 starts this year, notching a 14-point, 11 rebound double-double against Drake on Wednesday night. Josiah Strong brings another strong shoot presence to the floor to compliment Antonio Reeves, averaging 12.3 points per game and shooting just of 40% from beyond the arc.

Illinois State leads the all-time series 44-39, but the Panthers have won the last 4 consecutive meetings dating back to the 2019-20 season. UNI swept both regular season games in Normal last winter, and took down the Redbirds in the first round of the 2021 MVC Tournament, 65-60. One of the longest running rivalries in UNI men’s basketball history, the Panthers and Redbirds have with 83 times, tied for the most all-time matchups against current MVC teams. In UNI’s last game with Illinois State in St. Louis, Austin Phyfea posted 21 points and 9 rebounds, while Tywhon Pickford scored 11 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists. Noah Carter recorded 9 points while James Betz posted 4 points with 3 blocks.

PANTHER NOTES

  • The Panthers are averaging 77.3 points per game in league play, 5.7 points more than against non-conference opponents (71.6).
  • Noah Carter has scored at least 15 points in 7 of UNI’s 9 conference game this season, including a career-high 33 points at Valparaiso.
  • The Panthers have made at least 10 free throws in their 11 of their last 12 games, as well as 21+ free throw in 3 of the last 6 games.
  • AJ Green ranks 2nd in the Missouri Valley Conference in points per game in league play (21.6), trailing Missouri State’s Isiah Mosley (25.2). Noah Carter is 4th in the MVC with 16.9 points a game in conference only games.
  • UNI is 72-9 when scoring 80 points under head coach Ben Jacobson (since 2006-07). The Panthers have scored 80+ points in 8 games this season, with a 6-2 mark in those games.
  • The Panthers are averaging 13.8 personal fouls per game, the 13th lowest average in the entire nation and 2nd best in the MVC behind Valparaiso.
  • AJ Green sits in 8th on UNI’s all-time scoring list with 1,515 career points. Green is 8 points from passing Eric Coleman (2004-08) for 7th on the all-time scoring list.
  • Austin Phyfea is 39 points from passing his father, Steve Phyfe, in career points scored for the Panthers. Steve Phyfe, who played at UNI from 1987-90 and was part of the program’s first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament team in 1990, scored 912 career points for the Panthers, ranking 55th in program history.

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