The UNI Panthers don’t need to worry about their at-large chances to the NCAA tournament any longer. The Panthers punched their ticket to the big dance with a thrilling 60-57 victory over Illinois State in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Kwadzo Ahelegbe gave UNI the lead for good with a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left that brought the score to 58-57. After the Panthers came up with a defensive stop, Ali Farokmanesh connected on a pair of free throws with 6.8 seconds left to seal the win for UNI.


Ahelegbe led the Panthers with 17 points, and Farokmanesh finished with 13. UNI controlled the opening half and led by as many as 12 points but the Redbirds came roaring back in the second half and managed to take the lead down the stretch before UNI tied the score to send it to overtime.

The victory puts UNI in to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time since 2004. The Panthers will find out their seed and opponent on Sunday, March 15.