Salukis steal one from Panthers in MVC play

Southern Illinois gets first win at McLeod Center

AP PHOTO • Southern Illinois’ Sean Lloyd, left, shoots against Northern Iowa defender Bennett Koch in the first half of their Missouri Valley Conference basketball game Thursday at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls.

CEDAR FALLS — Marcus Bartley hit back-to-back a 3-pointers as Southern Illinois fought into the lead early in the second quarter, and Armon Fletcher hit a big 3 inside the final minute as the Salukis had just enough to hold off Northern Iowa 56-53 in the opener of Missouri Valley Conference play Thursday night.

Kavion Pippen led with 14 points, Bartley added 12 and Fletcher eight for Southern Illinois (9-5), which won for the first time in 12 games at Northern Iowa’s McLeod Center and the first win in Cedar Falls since 2003.

Trailing 25-22 at halftime, Bartley wrapped two of his four 3-pointers around a Northern Iowa turnover as the Salukis scrapped into a 39-35 lead with 9:38 to play. Southern Illinois never trailed again, but didn’t get any daylight on the Panthers until Fletcher’s 3 made it 55-48 with 58 seconds left.

The lead was just enough as Southern Illinois missed five of six free throws in the last 40 seconds. In all, the Salukis shot 3-for-10 from the free-throw line in the game.

Tywhon Pickford led UNI (8-5) with 13 points. Northern Iowa had played the nation’s second-toughest non-conference schedule, but the Panthers got outscored 34-28 in the second half to drop the MVC opener.

Klint Carlson came away with eight points and 12 rebounds, while Wyatt Lohaus stepped up off the bench and made two 3-pointers on his way to eight points for UNI.

UNI will be back in action Sunday at Bradley (10-4, 0-1). Tip is set for 1 p.m. at Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 56, NORTHERN IOWA 53

At Cedar Falls

S. ILLINOIS (9-5, 1-0) — Pippen 6-12 2-4 14, Lloyd 3-6 0-0 6, Smithpeters 2-5 1-4 7, Cook 4-7 0-1 9, Fletcher 3-7 0-0 8, Stradnieks 0-3 0-0 0, Wiley 0-3 0-0 0, Bartley 4-7 0-1 12, Gooch 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS 22-51 3-10 56.

N. IOWA (8-5, 0-1) — Koch 2-8 1-1 5, Carlson 3-10 2-4 8, Brown 2-8 1-1 5, McCloud 3-7 0-0 7, Pickford 5-9 2-2 13, Phyfe 1-2 0-0 2, McDermott 0-0 0-0 0, W.Lohaus 3-8 0-0 8, Rhodes 2-2 0-0 5. TOTALS 21-54 6-8 53.

Halftime–UNI 25-22. 3-Point Goals–S. Illinois 9-21 (Bartley 4-6, Smithpeters 2-4, Fletcher 2-4, Cook 1-3, Stradnieks 0-1, Gooch 0-1, Lloyd 0-2), UNI 5-20 (W.Lohaus 2-4, Rhodes 1-1, McCloud 1-4, Pickford 1-4, Carlson 0-3, Brown 0-4). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–S. Illinois 34 (Lloyd 8), UNI 34 (Carlson 12). Assists–S. Illinois 10 (Cook 4), UNI 7 (Brown, McCloud, Carlson 2). Total Fouls–S. Illinois 14, UNI 14. A–4,933 (6,650).