UNI’s magic number to clinch a first-ever Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship is down to three games following the Panthers’ lop-sided 81-55 victory over Southern Illinois in Cedar Falls Wednesday night.
UNI Coach Ben Jacobson says they wanted to be aggressive and maybe more so than usual. His team trailed only once in the game. Reserves Lucas O’Rear and Travis Brown combined for 21 points, igniting a bench that outscored the injury-depleted Salukis 32-4.
A total of nine different Panthers scored in the game. Jacobson says that versatility has been instrumental to UNI’s success, he says it’s been a big part of what they do, and it extends all the way through their bench.
With the win, UNI maintains a two-game lead in the Valley race with four remaining. None of the team’s players or coaches are talking about the possibility of winning the league crown. Instead, Brown says the Panthers are focused on finishing the season strong. Brown says they are on the right track, but haven’t finished the season yet. He says they are on the way to finish strong, and that’s what they want to do.
The 26-point win matched UNI’s largest victory margin over Southern Illinois in the 44-game series. The Panthers travel to Wichita State on Saturday.