Senior Colt Ryan scored a game-high 21 points as the University of Evansville men's basketball team picked up its second-consecutive win in Cedar Falls thanks to a 62-59 win over Northern Iowa on Wednesday at the McLeod Center.
With his final of 21 points, Ryan became just the 27th player in Missouri Valley Conference history to reach the 1,800-point mark in his career. The senior was 7-of-17 for UE (10-6, 3-1 MVC) while hitting three treys and all four free throws. Troy Taylor tallied 11 points along with a team-high seven rebounds.
After failing to score a point in the opening half of last year's tilt in Cedar Falls, Colt Ryan got the Aces on the board on the first possession, hitting a jumper from the left elbow. On the next possession, it was Ned Cox sinking the first trey of the game to give UE a quick 5-0 lead. UNI (8-8, 1-3 MVC) quickly got its offense going as they fought back on a 10-2 run as an Anthony James three-pointer gave UNI its first lead at 10-7.
Three-point shooting helped Evansville retake the lead as they started the game 3-of-4 from long range as one by Adam Wing gave UE a 17-13 lead while the defense held UNI to 0-for-5 shooting over the course of a 9-0 run; Marc Sonnen ended the run with a three-pointer. That proved to be just a slight bump in the road as the Purple Aces utilized another run, this one of the 7-0 variety to open up its largest lead at 28-18 with five minutes left. Cox hit another three, starting 2-for-2 after hitting his first five attempts last time out against SIU.
The lead would reach as many as 11 points before Northern Iowa finished the half on a 4-0 run to go into the break trailing by a 32-25 tally. Ryan was the only player to finish the period in double figures, notching 12 on a 5-of-8 shooting effort. UE hit 48.1% of its buckets in the period while holding an 18-16 edge on the boards at intermission.
UNI was able to cut its gap to seven at the half, but Evansville, led by its senior from Batesville, Ind., was able to reestablish its double-digit advantage. Ryan drained his third three of the night as Evansville opened up a 37-25 lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Troy Taylor connected on a layup to give Evansville a 14-point edge at 41-27, but the Panthers utilized the 3-point shot to claw its way back. In the first half, UNI was 4-of-15 from long range, but hit four out of six treys in a span of four minutes as their 12-2 stretch cut the gap to just three points midway through the second frame at 45-42. Matt Bohannon had two threes over the course of the run.
Looking to seize the momentum back, Evansville looked to Colt Ryan, who ended the stretch with a pair of free throws. Lewis Jones followed that up with a pair of field goals to put UE up by a 51-43 score. The thrilling back-and-forth action continued as UNI fought back with a 10-2 stretch to tie the game up at 53-53 with just under four minutes left. Anthony James hit back-to-back shots to cap off the stretch as the Panthers tied it up for the first time since early in the first half.
The teams exchanged 2-pointers leading to a 55-55 tie with just over a minute left. Evansville had a drought of 4 minutes without a field goal as the offense missed a pair of shots while turning it over three times. After scoring just three points in the first half, James struck once again as his bucket inside of a minute left gave UNI a 57-55 lead.
A missed shot by Taylor gave the ball back to UNI up by a pair before the Panthers missed the front end of a one-and-one. Lewis Jones gave the lead back to UE with an and-one with 27 seconds left on the ensuing possession. Another missed free throw gave the ball back to the Aces, leading to a pair of clutch free throws by Ryan, which put UE up 60-57.
James hit another bucket to cut the gap to one before Cox connected on two free throws to make it a 62-59 lead inside of 10 seconds remaining. The Panthers had one more open look at the buzzer, but it sank short as Evansville took the win by a 62-59 final.
Leading the Panthers was James, who notched 19 tallies, 16 of which came in the second half. He was the only Panther in double digits. Both teams finished with 31 rebounds while UE held a slight shooting edge of 44%-41.2%.