(Photo Credit: Scott Criscione)
In the second game of Friday’s quarterfinals in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, fans were incredibly entertained, with another close, intense game. The four seed Northern Iowa Panthers defeated the five seed Southern Illinois Salukis 66-60 to move on to the semifinals tomorrow to play against the one seed Wichita State Shockers at 2:30pm. The winner of that game moves on to the MVC Championship on Sunday.
Early on in this 4 vs. 5 matchup, it was all Panthers. UNI opened up the contest with a 9-2 run, led by Wes Washpun and then an impressive shot off of a spin move by Bennett Koch. But just as the Panthers finished their 9-2 run, the Salukis went on a run of their own, sparked by Tyler Smithpeters, who was fouled on a three point shot and then nailed all three of his free throws. SIU hit a few more shots to put together an 8-2 run and the UNI lead was just 11-10.
The Panthers started to pull away even more, as they led by as much as nine. But SIU wouldn’t be silenced, as Saluki guard Armon Fletcher hit back-
to-back threes and fellow guard Mike Rodriguez hit a jump shot to cut the lead to 28-26. The teams traded a few more buckets and SIU was unable to connect on a three pointer as time in the first half expired and the Northern Iowa Panthers led the Southern Illinois Salukis 29-28 at the half.
The second half was nothing short of spectacular basketball as well. Jeremy Morgan of UNI opened out the half with a three pointer, and then Morgan would fire up another one and connect to put the Panthers up 37-32 early in the second half. Senior guard Wes Washpun also added a three, which put Northern Iowa up double digits, at 46-36.
But just as it seemed like UNI was gonna pull away for the easy win, SIU stormed right back. The Salukis went on a 10-3 run to narrow the Panther lead to just three. UNI lead 49-46 and Matt Bohannon connected on a three to put the Panthers up 52-46. But the Salukis would just not give up. They pulled to within three several times, particularly at 56-53.
With just three minutes remaining and UNI with a three-point advantage, the two MVC foes continued to battle it out. With 2:18 remaining, Armon Fletcher of SIU got a basket plus the foul, and made his free throw to tie the game at 56. The ensuing possession, UNI turned it over and then SIU did the same, to give the Panthers the ball. Then, Klint Carlson of UNI airballed a three-point attempt, meaning it was Salukis ball with 1:30 remaining.
They committed an offensive foul, sending Jeremy Morgan, UNI’s leading scorer of the day, to the line. He made both to put the Panthers up 58-56 with just over a minute to play. Sean O’Brien got a bucket then after to tie it. Wes Washpun came right down the court afterward and layed it in to get the Panthers the lead again, this time at 60-58.
Then, SIU missed a go ahead three with 28.9 seconds remaining. Jeremy Morgan was again sent to the free throw line, knocking down both attempts and giving UNI a four-point advantage with 23.8 remaining. Anthony Beane got a quick layup and the Salukis then fouled with 16.4 remaining. Bohannon was at the line and made both free throws to go up 64-60 with 16.4 remaining. SIU turned it over and then fouled, which basically marked the end of the game. Northern Iowa advances to play in the semifinals against Wichita State tomorrow at 2:30pm.