UNI Gets First MVC Road Win Behind Born’s 25
UNI (6-8, 2-2) traveled four hours to Normal, Illinois on Saturday to take its first road, conference victory of the season, defeating Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) rival Illinois State (6-9, 1-3), 66-60.
And they did it after a strange start.
Between the Redbirds' first 11 points coming from Liam McChesney (their starting big who averages seven points per game), another zone defense that threw the Panther offense for a loop, and 13 minutes from freshman guard Ege Peksari in the first half (he's played 38 minutes total this season), it'd be tough to imagine a scenario where anyone saw any of that coming.
"(Ege) was great," Coach Ben Jacobson said postgame. "That was the first time he's had the extended minutes where he got his feet under him. ... He was able to play the way he's capable of. His passing puts a lot of pressure on the defense."
The guard from Turkey finished with a +11 plus/minus.
Despite the mixture of defenses UNI saw, the purple and gold found a way to get things going 12 minutes in, as they went on a 14-3 run between 9:06 and 3:34 remaining in the first frame to take a 26-18 lead at one point in that stretch.
"(I knew) that we were going to come out with the right determination and sense of urgency defensively," Jacobson said. "That set the tone for us."
The two teams went back and forth over the final few minutes of the half, making the score 31-25 at the end of the first frame.
The first 10:41 of the second half was all Panthers, too. From 20:00 to 9:19, UNI held a lead of seven or more points, with the largest being 13 points at 11:01 remaining.
The offensive production didn't come as easily over the next two minutes.
At two separate points under the six-minute mark, the Redbirds got the UNI lead down to just three -- a moment that the Panthers have seen several times this season after holding a double-digit lead.
Before the Redbirds could fully mount a comeback, the MVC's leading scorer Born took command. He settled the offense and ran it all the way through. Big man Cole Henry scored on a give-and-go from Trey Campbell (and also had a monster dunk), Campbell and Michael Duax hit free throws, and the Panthers put away their MVC rival.
"Our guys made some important plays, some winning plays," Jacobson said. "We had to do it twice. We got that lead up to 13 and then we had to do it again. ... That's an area where this team has grown a lot."
"We're very satisfied with the win tonight," Henry said postgame. "Any time you get some road kill in conference play, it's a great feeling. (The MVC) is so challenging, no matter who you play."
Born led the Panthers with 25 points, making all of UNI's five total threes to tie his single-game, career-high from deep. Tytan Anderson added 16 points and nine boards for the Panthers, while McChesney scored 20 points to lead the Redbirds.
"It's incredible, man," Henry said. "He has the ability to score like that every night. ... It makes life easy for us when he can just pull up from 30 (feet) and hit those shots."
Next, UNI will take on Valparaiso on the road at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, January 4.