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UNI edges Redbirds to advance in MVC tourney

Austin Phyfe

ST. LOUIS — Austin Phyfe made his first six shots from the field on the way to 21 points to lead Northern Iowa to a 65-60 victory over Illinois State in the second game of Arch Madness, the 45th Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament, on Thursday night at the Enterprise Center.

The seventh-seed Panthers (10-15) advance to meet No. 2 seed Drake (24-3) in today’s 5 p.m. quarterfinal. Illinois State’s season ends at 7-18, with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2006-07.

Phyfe made 9-of-14 field goals in tying his season scoring high. He added nine rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.

Dusan Mahorcic led the Redbirds with 15 points.

DJ Horne gave Illinois State a 54-53 lead with three free throws with 6:37 left in the game, but UNI went on a 9-2 run over the next five minutes as the Redbirds missed eight of their next nine from the field.

Neither team ever led by more than six points in a game that featured 11 ties and 14 lead changes.

With five different players scoring, the Redbirds hit 10-of-16 field goals to build a 23-16 lead at 8:40 of the first half. Illinois State’s ballhandling problems set in at this point, with five turnovers in its last nine possessions. The Redbirds finished with 16 turnovers.

Phyfe scored 12 of UNI’s first 20 points and keyed a 7-0 run to get the Panthers even at 23-all at the 4:50 mark. Abdou Ndiaye’s dunk and a jumper by Josiah Strong got the Birds a 27-23 lead at the 4:09 mark. But UNI finished the half on a 7-2 run for a 30-29 lead at intermission.

The Panthers led 33-31 in the first two minutes of the second half after Tywhon Pickford hit a free throw, but Horne’s jumper, Mahorcic’s dunk and Victor Fleming Jr.’s fast-break layup gave the Redbirds a 37-33 lead.

Ndiaye’s 3-pointer with 12:41 left broke a 39-39 tie. Dedric Boyd’s free throw made it 43-39. UNI responded with a second-chance basket by Phyfe and Noah Carter’s 3-pointer–the first for the Panthers after 13 misses beyond the arc. UNI finished 4-21 from behind the arc, but scored 38 points in the paint.

The Panthers and Redbirds faced each other for the third time in seven days, with UNI sweeping the three games. No. 7 seeds are now 21-44 all-time in the Valley tournament, 19-30 in St. Louis; No. 10 seeds are 9-25, all of those games in St. Louis. UNI’s victory means No. 7 seeds have won first-round games in six straight Valley tournaments.

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament

At Enterprise Center, St. Louis

First Round

Thursday, March 4

Southern Illinois 73, Bradley 63

Northern Iowa 65, Illinois St. 60

Quarterfinals

Friday, March 5

No. 1 Loyola (21-4) vs. No. 9 Southern Illinois (12-13), 11:08 a.m.

No. 4 Indiana St. (14-9) vs. No. 5 Evansville (9-15), 2:08 p.m.

No. 2 Drake (24-3) vs. No. 7 Northern Iowa (10-15), 5:08 p.m.

No. 3 Missouri St. (16-6) vs. No. 6 Valparaiso (10-17), 8:08 p.m.

Semifinals

Saturday, March 6

12:05 p.m., 3:05 p.m.

Championship

Sunday, March 7

Semifinal winners, 1:10 p.m.

——

Northern Iowa 65, Illinois St. 60

ILLINOIS ST. (7-18) — Mahorcic 7-12 1-2 15, Fleming 1-4 0-0 2, Horne 2-8 5-5 10, Reeves 4-9 1-1 10, Washington 2-6 0-0 4, Strong 4-10 0-0 8, Boyd 1-4 1-2 4, Ndiaye 3-4 0-0 7, Sissoko 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS 24-58 8-10 60.

N. IOWA (10-15) — Phyfe 9-14 3-4 21, Berhow 2-10 2-2 8, Born 2-12 3-4 7, Heise 2-5 0-1 5, Pickford 5-6 1-2 11, Carter 4-8 0-0 9, Betz 2-5 0-1 4, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 26-60 9-14 65.

Halftime–UNI 30-29. 3-Point Goals–Illinois St. 4-23 (Ndiaye 1-2, Boyd 1-3, Horne 1-4, Reeves 1-6, Fleming 0-1, Washington 0-3, Strong 0-4), UNI 4-21 (Berhow 2-7, Carter 1-3, Heise 1-3, Betz 0-1, Born 0-7). Rebounds–Illinois St. 31 (Mahorcic, Fleming, Horne 7), UNI 37 (Phyfe, Pickford 9). Assists–Illinois St. 12 (Horne 4), UNI 17 (Pickford 5). Total Fouls–Illinois St. 14, UNI 10. A–663 (21,000).

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